Regional Buzz: ‘Chhabeelwaala baba’, deserted offices and turf wars

  • HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: May 30, 2016 10:07 IST
With assembly polls due early next year, offices of Punjab ministers wear a deserted look. Reason: They have been told to stay put in their “halqas” (constituencies). (Illustration by Daljeet Kaur Sandhu)

Regional Buzz

Chhabeelwala baba

Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhumma has become popular as “chhabeelwala baba”. The public perception about Damdami Taksal that has the legacy as the highest seat of learning for Sikh preachers, founded by tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh, is at its lowest after supporters of Dhumma attacked the convoy of preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale, killing one person, by stopping them at a chhabeel (offering sweetened water free of cost). A Facebook post eulogising Dhumma got many reactions with one of them saying, “One has to be beware of chhabeel, especially one offered by Dhumma’s supporters”.

Focus on ‘halqa’

With assembly polls due early next year, offices of Punjab ministers wear a deserted look. Reason: They have been told to stay put in their “halqas” (constituencies). “Mantri ji is in his halqa” is the common reply one gets from the staff. “I am in my halqa among my people,” said agriculture minister Tota Singh from Moga, conveying that he would not be able to return to Chandigarh before Monday. Health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani also remains in his constituency, Fazilka, three days a week. Education minister Daljit Singh Cheema, however, has an advantage of returning to Chandigarh every night from his Rupnagar constituency, which is just over half-an-hour drive from the state capital.

No time for martyr

As political parties and social organisations are competing with each other to take credit for doing “so much” to commemorate the memory of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, the tercentenary of whose martyrdom falls on June 9, the Baba Banda Bahadur International Foundation has said that Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar does not have time to spare. The foundation has invited the CM to be the chief guest at a function in Kurukshetra where it plans to install Banda Bahadur’s statue. “The PM has given confirmation to attend a statue-installation ceremony in Delhi on June 30, but the Khattar doesn’t have time for someone whose ancestors fought in Banda’s army,” said Dr Raj Singh, an IAS officer posted as registrar of companies and a senior member of the foundation.

Locked in turf war

The Congress is passing through its worst phase, but party leaders in Haryana do not seem to have learnt any lessons. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and former two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda are locked in a turf war. Though their fight has reached the high command, the two are now taking sorties into each other’s terrain. When Hooda, whose supporters have repeatedly complained to the central leaders against Tanwar, planned his public awareness campaign, he decided to launch it from Sirsa, the political turf of the state unit chief. Tanwar, who won the Sirsa Lok Sabha seat in 2009, has also not let go of any opportunity to venture into the former CM’s political territory. He has been frequenting the area regularly lately, irking Hooda’s supporters. Though both leaders, as expected, deny any rift, it is their political rivals who appear to be having all the fun.

Hooda turns punctual

Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda gave a pleasant surprise to journalists at his press conference in Chandigarh last week. He was dot on time. A habitual latecomer, Hooda was rarely on time for official or political events during his two-term rule or after his party’s rout in the last assembly polls. The former CM usually comes late, arriving behind the schedule by more than an hour sometimes. Another surprise the newspersons got was that he took all the questions without dismissing them as “hypothetical”. Hooda has been laughing off awkward questions in the past, terming them hypothetical.

Khattar under attack

It’s not quite the language you’d expect from an experienced politician, but that’s never stopped them. Congress MLA and former minister Karan Singh Dalal appears to be upset with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar. During his recent visit to the CM’s Karnal assembly constituency, Dalal, a close relative of ex-chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, launched an all-out attack on Khattar. Questioning the BJP leader’s move of raising funds from private organisations for his area, the Congress leader alleged that Khattar had insulted the CM’s post by seeking money like beggars. “Ek raja bikharion ki tarah bheek mang raha hai toh aur bikhari kise kahenge (When a king is begging for money like beggars, who we are going to call beggar then),” he said. Dalal also took a dig at former CM Om Prakash Chautala, who is in jail, saying that Chautala thought he would remain CM for lifetime, but was now cleaning the library in jail.

Decoding the law

Congress MLA from Gannaur Kuldeep Sharma misses no opportunity to take a jibe at the BJP government. At a press conference convened by former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Sharma said such was the inertia of the BJP government that he would initiate quo warranto – a legal action during which an individual’s right to hold an office or governmental privilege is challenged – proceedings and lodge a case against CM Manohar Lal Khattar. Since none of those present appeared to make head or tail of his legalese, he volunteered to explain: “If a person fails to perform the duties he was supposed to perform, quo warranto case can be initiated against him”.

PIB’s faux pas

To err is human, but some mistakes can be really embarrassing. When Union minister for urban development Venkaiah Naidu announced the names of 13 winners of the fast-track competition under the Smart City Mission on Tuesday, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) made a faux pas. The PIB, in the official press note, listed Shimla in Himachal Pradesh among the winners instead of Dharamshala which was in contention for the smart city slot. Though the PIB quickly made the correction, it was a serious gaffe, given the political slugfest that preceded the selection of Dharamshala by the Congress government in the state for the smart city project. Both Shimla and Dharamshala were in contention with their own set of backers. When Dharamshala was recommended, there were political fireworks. And, the state’s urban development minister Sudhir Sharma had to face criticism for the choice of city.

Credit war for smart city

The ruling Congress and the opposition BJP in Himachal have been sparring over the selection of Dharamshala for the smart city project from the time the recommendation was made to the Centre last year. Now that the hill town has made it to the smart city list, there is a race for claiming credit. BJP leader and ex-MLA from Dharamshala Kishan Kapoor said development works carried out during his tenure helped the town win the fast-track competition. However, his successor, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma, gave a quick response: “Let the people, who are claiming credit, celebrate. They have every right to live in illusion. People know whose work is this and who should get the credit”.

Courteous prince

Himachal health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, seen as a contender for the CM’s post, seems to have been overwhelmed by the courtesy shown by chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, who is Himachal Youth Congress president. Vikramaditya, who is also fondly called ‘Tikka Sahib’ (prince), met Thakur personally to extend an invite for the Youth Congress rally in Mandi. What came as surprise for the young leader was that Kaul Singh Thakur not only accepted his invitation, but also declared him as “future leader” of the state. The minister extended full support to the CM’s son for the rally as well.

Avoiding controversies

BJP MP from Kangra Shanta Kumar, whose public utterances have left the party red-faced on several occasions in the past, has learnt to avoid controversies. The former Union minister, who regularly attends Parliament, has been uncharacteristically quiet there, maintaining silence during debates. The reason: The four-time MP thinks if he speaks, it is taken as being critical of the government. Shanta has been prolific in writing letters to his party colleagues instead. And his letters, which he makes public promptly, have kicked up a storm within the party every time.

Anurag turns emotional

Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur got emotional at a civic reception held in his home town to felicitate him on his elevation to the coveted post of president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Addressing the gathering, he broke down when speaking on the subject of cases registered by the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government against him in the state. “What wrong have I done? Will the CM tell me? As the vigilance has registered cases against me, my children ask me what for I am being punished,” the MP said, his voice choke with emotion.

Venting ire against colleagues

Former Himachal director general of police (DGP) ID Bhandari, who was recently discharged by a local court in the phone-tapping case, has hit out at his former colleagues, including some juniors. He first accused two senior police officers of conspiring against him and then questioned the investigating skills of inspector general of police (IGP) AP Singh in the case. Singh is currently the state’s resident commissioner in New Delhi. “Singh was probationer with me and this (FIR in phone-tapping case) was certainly an excellent reward or guru-dakshina,” Bhandari posted on Facebook. “In my opinion, he (AP Singh) is a superb investigating officer. I don’t understand how he failed in such an important case,” he remarked, venting his ire.

(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Prabhjit Singh, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur)

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