In a party where youth credentials can bag you plum posts, little wonder that new Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Channi loves to flaunt his humble, Dalit roots and young age, but not his true age. His profile on Wikipedia, says he is 1972 born, which makes him 43. The MLA, who is pursuing a masters degree, says what’s in age, you can quote he is in his early 40s. Grill him further — he reveals to be 1968 born, which makes him 47. The difference is four years but in a party where from degrees to age, all is faked for fitting into Rahul’s Young Turks merit list, there is not much ado about a few years here and there.
Loyalty to Badals
A near bloody battle broke out between two ‘chamchas’ of the ruling Badals recently inside the sprawling official residence of Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, the old fox known for his “chalta hai” attitude.
The wrestling of sorts, according to Deep Throat, took place between an IAS officer and a strapping sardar. While the bureaucrat positions himself as the most “faithful” babu of the Badals, the “sardarji”
deals ‘luckily’ with money matters of the ruling family’s business empire. The IAS officer considers this “trusted man” of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal as a thorn in the flesh. The duo, it is rumoured, once fought in Sukhbir’s presence, accusing each other of being less loyal to the Badals and indulging more in loot. The rivalry took the ugly turn when the bureaucrat, along with some other officials, was sitting in the guestroom and the “sardarji” entered. When the officer taunted the “sardarji”, he lost temper, grabbing him by his shirt. But no one dared to intervene. The matter reached the CM, who, in his typical style, advised the two to bury the hatchet. After all, business comes first for the Badals.
DGP prefers CM
Punjab Police chief Suresh Arora prefers chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal in discussing police matters even though the latter holds the home portfolio. While Sukhbir is perceived to be somewhat nonchalant home minister, the real power is wielded by another cabinet minister who deals with even petty matters such as transfer of constables. Badal, it is believed, has elbowed out his son from police policies after the recent unrest. An impression is gaining currency that Arora deals with the CM directly. The police, unwittingly or not, admitted as much in a press release on the meeting Arora had with a delegation of Nottingham Trent University on Saturday. They discussed the possibility of giving exposure to Punjab cops in the UK to help them learn best practices. And, the press note read, “The above plan (cops’ training) was discussed by the DGP with the chief minister who showed a lot of enthusiasm...and approved this innovative scheme in principle. He (CM) assured that there would be no financial hurdle in the way of implementing such initiatives.” Sukhbir, obviously, is watching.
Eagerly awaited coalition
It’s now official. Both Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh and People’s Party of Punjab chief Manpreet Badal are eagerly waiting to knit a coalition after missing the bus and their political standing in the 2012 assembly polls. But both have been advised by their loyalists not to look eager. While Manpreet has been singing paeans for Amarinder, he is yet to get an invite for the latter’s rally in Bathinda, which was to be the first sign of warming up. The two have met after the former CM’s anointment as new state Congress chief, but Amarinder is trying to humour his Malwa coterie by playing hardball. The courtship is on, but with deal-breakers outnumbering match-makers, wait till you hear the wedding bells.
Cong MLAs not getting funds
Congress MLAs appear anxious about not getting funds for pending projects in their constituencies. Recently, Ludhiana MLA Surinder Dawar, while sharing his grievance with a senior officer, pointed to non-disbursement of government funds for his constituency. He said a SAD councillor was given more than `7 crore for the projects, whereas he failed to get even `2.5 crore despite being a legislator. “Sir ji, naa ta kamm ho rahe han te naa hi officers saadi gal sunde ne, phir wih assi lok sewa wich jute hoye haan (Neither am I able to get any work done in my constituency, nor do officials listen to us. Still, we are helping people).”
Making most of opportunity
Balwant Singh Raoowalia, who switched loyalties from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party recently and became a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, justifies his move. Ramoowalia said it came like a “lottery” for him and he wasted no time in lapping it up. “Anyone who gets such a lottery would not waste time in accepting it even if he has to go to Pakistan. And I am in India only,” he told a reporter of this newspaper last week, taking jibes at his critics in SAD, the party where his stay of three years did not fetch him any major gains.
Haryana excited about SC decision
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was visibly happy and excited over the verdict of the Supreme Court on the panchayat polls in the state. The CM immediately called a press conference. He was late for the press meet by 30 minutes, but came huffing. The CM told newspersons that he came virtually running and sought some time to catch his breath. He hailed the apex court’s decision as “historic and progressive”. But what also created a buzz was that his agriculture minister OP Dhankar was equally excited and also eager to hold a press conference. The state’s advocate general Baldev Raj Mahajan also hailed the decision. There was talk in the corridors of power that the court decision was the state government’s first total win, hence all the excitement.
Virbhadra goes soft on Jaitley
Notwithstanding political differences, some netas show political courtesy. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh travelled to Delhi recently to attend the marriage of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s daughter despite their differences over the probes initiated by two central agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, against him. He had blamed Jaitley for his troubles. While he has continued his diatribe against former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, Virbhadra has gone a tad soft on the FM lately. “I am a social animal and never refuse any invitation for social functions and gatherings, whether it is the marriage of kin of a fellow politician or some other occasion,” he said.
Shanta’s move surprising
BJP leader Shanta Kumar and chief minister Virbhadra Singh have been heaping praise on each other from time to time. But the veteran BJP leader surprised people the other day when he accompanied his party colleagues to Rashtrapati Bhawan and submitted a memorandum seeking dismissal of the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in Himachal Pradesh. Besides Shanta Kumar, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, Lok Sabha MPs Anurag Thakur, Ramswaroop Sharma and Virender Kashyap, Rajya Sabha MP Bimla Kashyap and state party chief Satpal Singh Satti were part of the BJP delegation.
Coincidence in meeting PM
Call it coincidence or a pre-planned move. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his archrival Prem Kumar Dhumal called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his office the same day (December 9). Virbhadra apprised the PM of the state-related issues pending before the Centre. Before leaving for Delhi, the CM had, in an informal chat with reporters, said that cases filed by the CBI and the ED were putting mental and financial stress on him. While Virbhadra had also said that he would inform Modi about his cases, it is not clear whether he actually made a mention to the PM. On the other hand, Dhumal invited Modi to HP and informed him about various projects proposed in the state.
Being partial to Jammu?
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has apparently decided to make Jammu an educational hub. After sanctioning an IIT and IIM, it has now announced an Institute of Hotel Management (IHM). The Kashmir valley, where the BJP did not win a single seat, already has an IHM. Jammu has been the political base of the BJP, but the region has long complained about being overshadowed by Kashmir, and “skewed” infrastructure and institutional set-up in the val ley. The announcement of IHM could help the BJP in warding off the criticism it faced following the AIIMS controversy, though Jammu was also sanctioned a medical institute later. The party, which is in power in the state for the first time, is keen to strengthen its base through these moves. However, there is apprehension that the concentration of these institutes in Jammu could backfire in Kashmir where whispers regarding “discrimination” have already started.
(Contributed by Pawan Sharma, Sukhdeep Kaur, Anshu Seth, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay)