Boss is always right
When the Congress opted out of the Khadoor Sahib bypoll, not everyone in the party was convinced about the decision. The other day, Congress MLA from Dera Baba Nanak Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa told a group of reporters that he too wanted the party to contest the bypoll. “I told party leaders that it is a sure-shot victory and would give us a boost for the 2017 polls,” he said. But in no mood to sound defiant, Randhawa quickly added that Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh took the decision. “His decisions are final because he has more political wisdom than anyone else in the party,” he said.
Mann, don’t break away!
Bhagwant Mann is never too far from interesting rumours, though not many turn into news reports. This one, however, walked right into HT’s interview with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal when the caravan stopped at a village on the Bathinda-Abohar road. “Mann saab, tutt na jayo! (Don’t break away!),” cried out several young men as they rushed to shake hands with Kejriwal and also noticed Mann in the backseat. He shook his head in a ‘no’, but the men persisted, “Tuhade te bada vishwas kita hai, hun nahin tuttna (We have invested faith in you; don’t break away at this juncture).” When asked why they said so, he turned serious. “These are rumours spread by rival parties. I am not going anywhere, surely,” he replied, within hearing distance of his boss, who kept a poker face.
The irrepressible Vij
Haryana ministers appear to be taking the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet quite seriously. While some of them keep making statements on issues pertaining to areas of their colleagues, health minister Anil Vij takes the lead. The irrepressible minister likes to give statements, and even make announcements, on issues irrespective of whether they are related to his portfolio or not. On Sunday, the minister said he has told the director general of police to register a case in alleged incidents of rape on national highway-1 during the quota stir on the basis of witnesses’ account. The matter pertained to home department with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar being the minister in-charge. While the CMs in the past never allowed the ministers so much wiggle room, the present set-up is somewhat different. Vij taken digs at the chief minister from time to time. But at the same time he likes to protect his domain, throwing a tantrum whenever someone else tries to step on his toes.
Hooda left red-faced on home turf
Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda had to face embarrassment on his home turf when he was shooed away by furious victims of the violent agitation by Jats for quota in jobs and education. The former chief minister and his local confidants were heckled by irate traders and other residents in the violence-hit town. Video clips of the heckling incident went viral on WhatsApp, providing an opportunity to Hooda’s rivals in the fractured party to settle old scores. The detractors and their supporters pushed the video clip, acting as “force multiplier”.
Treading with caution
The sedition case slapped by the Rohtak police on Congress leader Virender, close aide of former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, in the audio-clip case has made the ministers and politicians wary of talking freely over mobile phones. The other day when a journalist called up a minister, to ask him about what transpired in a meeting of the BJP core group, he kept waffling for a few minutes. On being requested to come to the point, the minister, making a reference to the “Virender case”, said, “kisi ka bhi phone record ho sakta, mera ya aapka.” The journalist got the message. The complaint in the audio was filed online by RTI activist Pawan Kumar Anchal of Bhiwani. A former merchant navy officer, he heads the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Bhiwani Sudhar and Vikas Samiti that took up the fungicide scam during the Congress rule, besides filing several PILs related to traffic management, stray cattle and water pollution in the district.
The recent Jat stir has divided the people, politicians and police in Haryana on caste lines. While several politicians are worried about their political survival, others are rushing to the area. Two ministers of state Karan Dev Kamboj and Nayab Singh Saini reached Rohtak and met riot victims in the non-Jat dominated Sukhpura Chowk area, showing solidarity with them. Union minister of state Rao Inderjit Singh also reached Jhajjar to meet the riot victims in Saini-dominated Chhawni Colony. Only INLD MP Dushyant Chautala, who had also raised the issue of alleged beating of students by the police in Neki Ram College of Rohtak in Parliament, visited PGIMS Rohtak to meet youths, who got injured in the firing by security forces. Caste matters.
Battling it out on WhatsApp
Amid protests against the India-Pakistan match scheduled at Dharamshala on March 19, the war of words between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP has now reached social networking sites. When senior Congress leader Vijai Singh Mankotia threatened to disrupt the event the other day, the youth wing of BJP hit back by circulating his picture wherein he was shown presenting a bouquet to former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and questioned his stance. The picture dates back to 2005, when Pakistan team played against Board President XI at the picturesque stadium. In a counter-offensive, Congress supporters started circulating pictures of HPCA national chief Anurag Thakur’s ‘Tiranga Yatra’, questioning why he is so eager to host Pakistan.
HP guv’s divine start
Himachal Pradesh governor Acharya Dev Vrat chose a “divine way” to start his first address to the Vidhan Sabha at the beginning of the budget session. The governor recited a mantra from Upanishad: “Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya. Mrityorma Amritamgamaya. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (Lead me from the unreal to the real. Lead from darkness to the light. Lead me from death to immortality. Let there be peace, eternal peace). Soon after the House was over, a BJP legislator was seen telling a Congress MLA that this mantra was for the government, so that good sense prevails upon it to do good deeds for the welfare of the people.
Once bitten, twice shy
Himachal additional chief secretary Deepak Sanan, who has repeatedly requested the state government to drop the chargesheet against him in the land allotment case related to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, is extremely cautious about putting his comments on official files now. When forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri sent a file related to ecotourism policy for his consent, Sanan recommended adoption of amended policy. The officer wrote that he had to face the music in a similar case where he gave consent for allotting land to HPCA after due consultation, but the matter was not placed before the cabinet. The department of personnel and training (DoPT) had last year rejected the state government’s request for his prosecution and the officer has been sending reminders to the state authorities to drop his chargesheet.
Housing crisis hits J-K ex-ministers
The stalemate over the formation of the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir has created a housing crisis for former ministers in the state. As per the rules, the ministers are entitled to official accommodation (spacious bungalows) only for one month after the government ceases to exit. The one-month period ended on February 7, but the officials in the estate department had not initiated any action for their eviction, as there was strong possibility of government formation and they did not want to upset the former ministers. However, reports suggest that the Governor first sought details of action taken for getting the bungalows vacated and then gave instructions for the same, putting the department officials in a catch 22 situation. While PDP president Mehbooba Mufti had vacated the official CM bungalow give to her father several days ago, her own bungalow, allotted as an MP, is also luxurious, something the former ministers can never dream of.
(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Aarish Chhabra, Navneet Sharma, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)