Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Captain: The ladies man
If there is one crown Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh wins hands down among Punjab politicians, it is chivalry and treating women with lot of grace. And it is a pleasant change for him and even the media so see Amarinder in company of not one, but three women – Ambika Soni, Asha Kumari and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal – at press conferences and rallies. The bonhomie between him and Asha, both blue-blooded royals, has helped end the bitterness between Amarinder and Partap Singh Bajwa, who is also close to Asha. It is too early to tell if the Himachal MLA will be hope for party victory in Punjab but she can be credited for the show of unity in the party’s top rank.
Punjab speaker wants to be in poll fray
After the action-packed assembly session got over last week, Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal had a new concern – the upcoming assembly elections in the state. “Yes, I am willing to contest the 2017 polls,” he told reporters. Asked about his son Inderiqbal Singh’s candidature, Atwal said party pradhan (read Sukhbir Singh Badal) would take the decision. Transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar (77), who was sitting beside him, butted in to add: “Ajje assi budhe nahhe hoye”. On hearing this, Atwal, 79, had a sparkle in his eyes, clearly showing he was ready for the election challenge.
Digital applause for Gadkari
Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari was greeted with pre-recorded digital clapping when he unveiled the foundation stone of highway projects at Jalandhar the other day. The gathering at the venue was not impressive. When the recording was played, everyone looked askance, unsure from where the sound was coming. “The authorities were not sure of response from public to the announcements. That’s why the recording of clapping was played to please the minister,” a district official confided.
Poster war and Cong bickering
The Congress is trying to put up a united face, but the poster war between two party leaders at Ajnala where Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh went on Saturday, told a different story. Party leaders Harpartap Ajnala and Gurjit Aujla, both ticket aspirants from the area, tried to impress Amarinder with posters. The two competing leaders put up a large number of their posters and hoardings at the rally site, exposing the vertical division on ticket issue. While Harpartap has been the party candidate from this constituency in the past also, Aujla, chief of district unit (rural), is actively working for the party ticket this time. Amarinder took note of the poster war. Only time would tell who gets the ticket.
The broom story
Much to the amusement of scores of supporters sitting in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) enclosure at its political rally at Chhapar village on Friday, a party member asked the audience if they were carrying a broom, the party symbol. “Agar kisi kol jhaadu hai taan saanu de deo,” he announced, sending the audience into loud peals of laughter. The broom was required as part of a play to be staged before senior leaders arrived. The party members soon got one broom from a supporter in the gathering.
Truly, the Sangh ‘parivar’
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd), who was shot at by two assailants last month, is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Ludhiana. While Gagneja’s family members have been taking care of him, local workers of RSS are taking turns to help them. They have been diligently pitching in with home-cooked food for the family members, three meals a day for the past six weeks. Duties have been assigned and being performed without fail.
‘Inauspicious’ time to launch logo
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar launched the logo of the state’s golden jubilee celebrations at Gurgaon on Saturday. But the event did not have the best start. Sports minister Anil Vij, vice-president of Swarn Jayanti Celebrations Authority, was not present. While three ministers Krishan Lal Panwar, Rao Narbir and Vipul Goyal were at the event, Vij, who was in Delhi and just a few kilometres from the venue, did not show up. The venue – Kingdom of Dreams – also became a talking point as the state government had last year ordered a probe into land allotment to the company. At the event, the host invited a guest, who has been living in the state since its creation, to dais to speak. The former journalist started speaking about his books on nepotism and corruption in the state, leaving everyone red-faced. Then, the biryani samples row overshadowed the media coverage. A party leader later said the logo should not have been launched during shraadh.But then there is a very thin line between beliefs and superstitions.
Vij’s instant justice
Known for “quick action”, Haryana’s health minister Anil Vij showed his “unique” working style that has the officials terrified. On the firing line was the executive officer of the Yamunanagar municipal corporation. Vij ordered his suspension over a complaint related to clearance for construction on a plot. Reacting to the complainant’s allegations that he had repeatedly raised the issue but nobody took him seriously, Vij said: “Main sirf baat nahi karta insaaf karta hun, aapko chinta karne ki jarurat nahin hai, jiska koi nahin uska Vij hai”. The minister was on his first visit to Yamunanagar after he was appointed chairman of the district grievances committee.
Khattar’s quiet visit to Kasauli
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar held a number of rallies and meetings in the week gone by. But what generated curiosity in the corridors of power was his quiet visit to Kasauli. While not many in his official circles were aware of it, politicians of opposition parties also spoke about the purpose of his visit. Leader of opposition Abhay Chautala even took a jibe at it while interacting “informally” with newspersons. “Pata laga hai ki Khattarji ne Kasauli mein ja ke files bhi nikali, vahan file zyada achhi nikalti hain kya,” he remarked, wondering that it was learnt Khattar cleared some files at Kasauli too as if files were cleared in a better manner there.
Virbhadra plays it cool
Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh knows how to evade tough questions. Transport minister GS Bali and chief parliamentary secretary Neeraj Bharti have been competing with each other for political supremacy in Kangra district. When the chief minister asked about the discord between the two leaders, he ducked the query in his trademark style, terming their slugfest as “bullfight”. “One is an experienced bull, while the other is a bull without horns. The fight will be over soon,” he added with a smile.
Virbhadra’s growing faith in Sikhism
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, facing the most turbulent phase of 50-year-long political career, is embroiled in unsavoury controversies. As he is engaged in tough legal battles to defend himself, the CM and his family are seeking divine intervention. Singh recently held a three-day akhand paath at his residence, Holy Lodge. Though the paath was attended only by the CM and his family, it became public knowledge when one of the organisers posted their pictures on Facebook. Singh’s growing faith in Sikhism has become a talking point in political circles. His two daughters are married in Sikh families. While Aparajita is married to Angad Singh, grandson of former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, Meenakshi Kumari is also married in royal family of Faridkot.
Sukhu’s tough stance
Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu appears to have hardened his stance against laidback leaders of the party. He summoned chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of various boards and corporations to Rajiv Bhawan – the headquarters of the state unit – the other day. The heads of boards and corporations, who are also office-bearers of the state Congress, were taken to task for not fulfilling responsibilities given by the party. A few of them narrated the episode to chief minister Virbhadra Singh who hurriedly called select journalists to his office to vent his anger against the Himachal Congress president. He also raised questions about the functioning of the state unit.
Bindal hits back at Himachal CM
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh got the taste of his own medicine when he criticised former health minister Dr Rajiv Bindal for shifting from Solan urban constituency to Nahan. Bindal, who is also BJP’s vice-president, had migrated to Nahan after the Solan assembly seat was reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. Bindal was quick to react, questioning the CM for shifting to Shimla rural from his traditional Rohru constituency that was also declared a reserved seat in the last assembly elections. “If the CM can migrate from his traditional seat to secure his political interest, why is he objecting to my decision to shift to Nahan,” he asked.
Winds of change in HP Congress!
The corridors of power have been abuzz with talk that chief minister Virbhadra Singh has proposed his close confident and urban development minister Sudhir Sharma’s name of the post of president of Himachal Congress. But the young minister has denied any such move. When coaxed by journalists at a press conference in Dharamshala, Sharma said he was not aware of any such plan. “If given the new responsibility, I will not run away. I will happily accept the challenge,” he said.Where there’s smoke there’s fire!
(Contributed By Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Ravinder Vasudeva, Aneesha Sareen, Aseem Bassi, Monica Sharma, Neeraj Mohan, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht And Naresh K Thakur)