Regional buzz: Bhagwant Mann’s jibes and Chandumajra’s wishes
Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.punjab Updated: May 16, 2016 16:40 IST
Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
AAP’s stamp on Mann’s jibes
Comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann likes to throw punches at the ruling dispensation. But the jibes of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP from Sangrur on the Badals and other leaders of the SAD-BJP combine are not impromptu. Mann needs to first get them approved from the AAP leadership before going public. “Everything he speaks from the party stage during public meetings is first discussed with leaders, including Punjab in-charge Sanjay Singh,” said one of his close aides. The aim is to ensure that the party works in an organised hierarchical manner and everyone sticks to the brief.
Think tanks and big-money dreams
With poll strategist Prashant Kishor striking a multi-crore deal with the Congress to plan its strategy for the assembly polls in Punjab, a number of his former companions, who were part of the successful election campaign of Nitish Kumar in Bihar last year, are also chasing “big-money” dreams. They have approached the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) with their own victory formulae, claiming to be the main “think tanks” and working behind the scenes in Bihar, that can help change the electoral fortunes of the party. The Akalis are still to take a decision whether or not to avail their services.
If wishes were horses
“Not a bad idea. Nothing better in case it happens” is how SAD MP from Anandpur Sahib Prem Singh Chandumajra reacted when asked about his chances of getting inducted into the Narendra Modi cabinet, during an interaction with a group of journalists last week. Unlike most other politicians, who may have reacted differently underplaying their chances in an attempt to be politically correct, Chandumajra could not hide his wish. A post in the Union cabinet seems like a distant dream, it didn’t stop him from expressing his wish.
Governments can be very unpredictable sometimes. Punjab agriculture commissioner BS Sidhu retired on April 30 and had already withdrawn his post-retirement benefits to the tune of Rs 19 lakh when the government decided to grant him extension. And, he is back in the office. The one-year extension happened despite some resistance from agriculture minister Tota Singh. The official had to deposit the money back into the government treasury.
Probe report jitters
The Prakash Singh inquiry committee is giving babus and cops in Haryana a bout of the jitters. Their fear stems from the findings of the inquiry committee in which 90 officials have been indicted for the collapse of the civil and police administration during the Jat quota violence. A number of worried officials, who were directly or indirectly involved in handling the quota stir, spent the last two days trying to find out the contents of the inquiry report. “The state government had asked me to study the working of the police force and suggest reforms and systemic changes to improve their image and working. Before I could start my work, this horrific violence took place. And, I was asked to do the inquiry,” said the soft-spoken, no-nonsense retired IPS officer. While Singh has been unsparing, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar wanted to make the report public. But he was advised by one of his key aides not to release it.
Putting cat among the pigeons
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar put the cat among the pigeons last week when he demanded that Akbar Road in Delhi be renamed as Maharana Pratap Road. After Khattar urged minister of state for external affairs VK Singh to make efforts for renaming Akbar Road – the Congress head office is located on this road — several party leaders, including Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, instantly latched on to the idea. The suggestion was seen by many as Khattar’s attempt to please the top brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). A few like Khattar’s former officer on special duty (OSD) Jawahar Yadav also took to micro-blogging sites such as Twitter to seek support. “The response was fantastic,” said Yadav. However, the Centre junked the suggestion.
Gurugram trouble for PR official
When the BJP government in Haryana last month decided to rename Gurgaon as Gurugram, it triggered a torrent of criticism. Jokes, memes and limericks went viral on social media. “Gurugram bolne se aisa lagta hai ki shahr nahin Patanjali ka koi product bazaar mein naya aaya hai (Gurugram sounds as if it is not a city, but a new product of Patanjali in the market). Gurugram, a new product of Lala Ramdev, a new pure ayurvedic city,” an official of the public relations department posted on Twitter. While several officials, including IAS officers, have been taking subtle and not-so-subtle digs at government and its decisions, there was a complaint against the PR official’s tweet and he was placed under suspension. A few of his colleagues, though they do not justify his remarks, are alleging discrimination, citing adverse comments made by other officials, including some senior ones, from time to time on social media and messaging groups.
Caught on the wrong foot
BJP’s Haryana affairs in-charge Anil Jain caught several mediapersons on the wrong foot during an interaction in Chandigarh last week when they asked him about the likely exit, inclusion or elevation of some ministers. Jain had a hearty laugh before asking them about the “authenticity” of such speculative information. “It is neither my brief, nor prerogative. Still, you people have not only written about it, but are also asking me questions,” he said. When he was asked for his reaction to reports that some MLAs had complained against the government to him, he took another dig at scribes. “I fail to understand who tells you all this,” said the BJP leader, leaving them confused whether their questions were off the mark or he was craftily dodging them.
‘Not afraid of disaster’
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh felt relieved after his Uttarakhand counterpart Harish Rawat’s government was reinstated following the Supreme Court order. “I am not afraid of any disaster. Not just political, I can even face a natural disaster at this moment,” Virbhadra commented on the recent political developments after the inauguration of Johnie Wax Museum in Shimla. The museum has 16 wax statutes of popular personalities that include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Barrack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Lionel Messi, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Jackson, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. The museum will also have a wax statue of Virbhadra soon.
Battle for dominance continues
The ongoing battle for dominance between transport minister GS Bali and his bête noire urban development minister Sudhir Sharma has intensified with the two sparing no opportunity to hit out at each other. When Bali recently organised a protest march at Dharamshala against the alleged victimisation of the party leadership by the Centre, Sudhir condemned the event. “The Congress is not a private limited company,” he said. Hitting back at Sudhir, Bali questioned the selection of Dharamshala by the urban development department for the Smart City Mission. “Facts were overlooked while selecting Dharamshala and depriving Shimla of its right,” he said.
BJP caught off guard
The opposition BJP, which lost its fortress of Dharamshala to the Congress in the previous assembly election, suffered another jolt recently when 50-odd workers shifted loyalties to the ruling party. The BJP leaders tried to downplay the development, claiming that they were not party workers. But, then, three more leaders, who were fielded by the BJP as its official candidates in the Dharmashala municipal corporation elections, joined the Congress with several others. And, the party leadership did not know how to react.
(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur)