Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, on a tour to the Nagrota Bagwan constituency during his winter sojourn to Kangra district, was presented a long list of demands by local MLA and transport minister GS Bali. The CM, who was in a generous mood, approved each one of his ministerial colleague’s demands that included hand pumps, solar lights, schools, roads, bridges and a drinking water supply scheme. When it came to the last one relating to setting up a fire post in the town, Virbhadra, exhibiting his witty side, told the gathering that the minister makes too many demands from him. “I hope and pray there is no fire incident in Nagrota. But since he has demanded it, I will gift a fire post to you,” he said to chuckles all around.
‘Aam meets khaas’ at political weddings
It was Punjab’s season of political weddings last week with some interesting alliances. Congress-turned- Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Khaira’s daughter tied the knot with grandson of late former Congress chief minister Darbara Singh on Sunday at a big fat Punjabi wedding where many Congress leaders turned up. Former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa was present for one of the ceremonies and so was senior Congress leader Jagmeet Brar, whose daughter is married to Darbara Singh’s elder grandson. Incumbent state party chief Captain Amarinder Singh was conspicuous by his absence but was present last Sunday at the reception of Congress-turned-Akali leader Deepinder Dhillon’s son who got married to Akali-turned-Congress leader Jagbir Brar’s niece. Captain showing up at Dhillon’s reception confirmed speculation that he was on his way back to the Congress.
Fun outing for Khattar & team
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar gave a surprise to his ministerial colleagues, political aides and bureaucrats last week. During the cabinet meeting, he invited them for a special screening of R Madhavan-starrer Hindi film “Saala Khadoos” at a multiplex in Chandigarh. Before the meeting ended, all senior bureaucrats also got WhasApp messages from a colleague inviting them to watch the film with the CM. The film is a story of a mentor-mentee relationship between a boxing coach and a young pugilist. While Khattar, education minister Ram Bilas Sharma, finance minister Capt Abhimanyu and several ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats watched the flick, clapping at every moment of triumph of the foul-mouthed young boxer, sports minister Anil Vij did not show up for the special screening. It is not clear what prompted the CM to go and watch the film with his ministers and officials. There was a talk that “Saala Khadoos” may be exempted from entertainment tax in the state, but no one seems sure. A fun outing for Khattar and his team nevertheless!
Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka, known for his run-ins with governments, may soon be rehabilitated professionally. Khemka, whose major penalty chargesheet was dropped by the BJP government leading to his elevation to the rank of principal secretary, is likely to be posted in the information technology sector. At present, he is posted on a low-key assignment in the state archives department. The fresh postings of Khemka and his five 1991-batch colleagues, promoted as principal secretaries, have been pending for over a month due to several reasons, giving restless moments to a few posted on low-key posts.
Popularising cow milk
Haryana Gau Seva Aayog chairman Bhani Ram Mangla appears to be taking his assignment seriously. He makes sure all his visitors drink tea made with cow milk — it tastes quite different from the regular one. Former president of the Gau Vansh Vikas Prakosth of the BJP in Haryana, Mangla, who belongs to Mewat, wants to make available and popularise cow milk everywhere. If he has his way, the commission chief plans to market cow milk, chaas (buttermilk) and ghee. He has been crisscrossing the districts for the past two months to gather firsthand information on the problems being faced by 400-odd gaushalas (cow shelters) spread across the state. Having covered half the districts, he recently came up with numerous ideas to raise funds for the government plans to provide shelter and silage to an estimated 1.5-lakh stray cows at gau abhyarans (cow sanctuaries) being planned in the state. Unlike some of his predecessors, his plans are ambitious. But one will have to wait to see how many of these fructify.
Curious case of unmarried women sarpanches
The buzz in the Haryana state election commission, the state government and villages across state is what would happen to panchayat posts won by unmarried women in months to come. As per the panchayat department estimate, around 333 posts of sarpanches and panches have been won by unmarried women, the youngest being just 21. The tenure of the elected candidates is five years. “Soon, they would be married. After bidai, they would be gone to their in-laws elsewhere,” is the murmur in the official corridors. In that case, there would then be bypolls in most of these villages, a senior official was heard as summing up.
Sturdy shoes for minister
Himachal Pradesh agriculture minister Sujan Singh Pathania has a great sense of humour. Taking a stroll down the memory lane the other day, Pathania, who sports a handlebar moustache, narrated a funny episode that happened when he was campaigning for a party candidate in Chamba three decades ago. “I went to a store asking for a pair of shoes that could bear my weight till the day of the election. The shopkeeper gave a pair saying that the shoes had four days’ extra life. When I asked him why four days, he told me don’t you have to run after the poll results are out,” the minister said as his cabinet colleagues rolled with laughter.
Singing a different tune
The controversy over a permanent campus for the Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP) flared up once again when Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani visited the hill state recently. Addressing the third annual convocation, the minister assured that the institution would have its own campus this academic session and the land would be finalised after consulting the state government. However, she sang a different tune at a BJP function shortly afterwards, blaming the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government for delay in setting up the campus. She accused the state government of placing the CUHP board at a site which was yet to be approved by the Centre.
Party hopping politician
Aam Aadmi Party’s Himachal convener Rajan Sushant, who maintained a low profile following his humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is again in the news. Known for party hopping, Sushant, a former BJP member of Parliament, is resorting to old tantrums. Disgruntled with the AAP leadership, he has resigned from the party post in the state, triggering speculation about his next move, but is not giving his mind yet.
Quiet entry into politics
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Hussain Mufti is making a quiet entry into state politics. Tassaduq has attended two party meetings in Jammu and Srinagar so far, but has not spoken a word. A professional cinematographer, he visited heritage site Mubarak Mandi which is under renovation and border outpost at Abdullian along the Indo-Pak border during his three-day stay at Jammu. His father, former CM late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was interested in early renovation of Mubarak Mandi and developing Abdullian to promote border tourism. Tassaduq apparently wants to study his father’s brand of politics and visited Jammu where the party does not have much support, for this reason. His “quiet presence” at the party meeting in Jammu has strengthened speculation that he is set to enter political arena to consolidate the family’s hold over the party, as some vocal and dissenting voices have cropped up after the former CM’s demise.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Navneet Sharma, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)