Regional buzz: Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Whitefly keeps PAU on toes
“Makhian maar rehan” (I’m killing flies) is what Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice chancellor BS Dhillon told an amused reporter the other day. But he was serious. “I mean it,” he said. The target of the entire agricultural set-up — the agriculture directorate, department and PAU – in the state these days is to destroy whitefly, a pest that has infested the cotton crop in Malwa belt. “No other work is in focus right now,” he added.
Royalty switches places
He is the ‘maharaja’ of Patiala, but despite his royal bearings Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh is a man of the masses. Just outside Chandigarh, on the Ludhiana road, a humble dhaba owner has named his eating joint after the former chief minister.
Called ‘Captain Dhaba’, the roadside eatery has been a nondescript little place for years. But the place has a fresh look now with large pictures of Amarinder coming up all around it. Obviously, the dhaba owner is a staunch Congressman and a big Amarinder fan. Cut to the other side of Chandigarh where coming up at a furious speed is ‘Sukhvilas’, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s five-star resort. With Captain’s dhaba and Sukhbir’s resort, it seems royalty has switched places.
Khattar’s Land Cruiser vs bicycle
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, known for his simple lifestyle, is facing flak for buying a Toyota Land Cruiser. The chief minister’s new official vehicle worth Rs 1.35 crore, the highest amount the government has spent to date, has made him the target of the opposition parties. While the opposition is criticising Khattar for turning his back on austerity, BJP MLA from Ladwa Pawan Saini has come forward to counter the charges by starting a “village-to-village campaign” in his assembly constituency on a bicycle.
Kishor not a hit among all Congress leaders
Prashant Kishor may have been a key strategist in the landslide victories of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, but not all Congressmen in Punjab seem impressed with him. A group of party MLAs, who had gathered in the Sector 15 office of the Punjab Congress in Chandigarh the other day, panned the poll strategist engaged by the central leadership to lead the party to victory. Though they began the discussion with Kishor’s praise, but then started voicing their doubts. “Punjab is different,” said one of them. Another was quick to add: “It’s not Bihar. People here don’t care for such people. He came with a bang, but lost steam very soon”. Now that’s not a good sign for the party hoping to end its losing streak.
Buzz over Haryana cabinet rejig
The political circles remained abuzz with speculation about the reasons behind rejig in portfolios of ministers after the cabinet expansion on last week. Ram Bilas Sharma was divested of his civil aviation department, which has been given to Rao Narbir Singh now. Sharma, who has education, technical education, tourism and parliamentary affairs in his portfolio, was pushing for purchase of an airplane and a helicopter last week. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar probably did not like all the talk about the flying machines, especially in the backdrop of criticism over the purchase of a luxurious Land Cruiser for him. The minister got ejected from the department by the end of week. And it is not being seen as mere coincidence.
Karnal MC mayor’s religious side
Karnal municipal corporation mayor Renu Bala Gupta seems more occupied with religious activities in the city than people’s issues. Her public relations team often circulates press notes and photographs of her visits to religious functions and seeking blessings of saints. Development, cleanliness and other important issues do not seem to get similar attention. While the MC office does not have proper parking and gets waterlogged after rain, several councillors have also raised the issue of lack of cleanliness in their wards and use of sub-standard material in construction of streets. But the municipal corporation is still to pay requisite attention to these problems.
Kaul Singh’s frequent trips to Raj Bhawan
Himachal Pradesh health minister Kaul Singh Thakur has been creating confusion in political circles with his frequent visits to Raj Bhawan to meet governor Acharya Dev Vrat. This time too, when the Enforcement Directorate questioned chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s wife and former Congress MP Pratibha Singh in connection with a money laundering case, Kaul Singh quickly called on the governor. His frequent meetings with the governor have left the Congress leaders perplexed.
Virbhadra, Anurag slug it out
A fresh war of words has broken out between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Anurag Thakur, also the BJP MP from Hamirpur, over the functioning of investigation agencies of the Centre. When Virbhadra recently accused the CBI and ED of acting as “chowkidars” and implicating opposition leaders (including him) in false cases, Anurag said the agencies do not work under any pressure and are independent. “The CM is reaping what he has sown,” the cricket administrator said, quoting an old proverb.
(Contributed by Chitleen K Sethi, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Neeraj Mohan, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur)