Akali ‘taash’ for jobless people
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he made quite a noise by comparing his Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) rival Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa with “khaali bhaande” (empty utensils), but Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Bhagwant Mann drew another elaborate sketch, this time of the entire SAD, in his Baisakhi rally speech at Talwandi Sabo. He said Dhindsa, now a Rajya Sabha MP, had spent around Rs 2 crore out of his MPLAD fund to place cement benches in Sangrur villages. “The government realises that there are too many jobless people who need to sit around. Next, they will distribute Akali “taash” (playing cards),” he remarked. “The face of Sukhbir (deputy CM) will be on “yakka” (ace); Parkash Singh Badal (CM) will be the “badshah” (king); everyone knows who the “begum” (queen) is! The competition is to for who gets to be the “gaula” (jack in cards, literally meaning ‘servant’); Dhindsa, (Balwinder Singh) Bhunder are vying for it. The rest are just a matter of a good shuffle.” Asked if this was impromptu, Mann admitted that he thought of these satires and practised at smaller rallies before “unveiling all the cards” at Talwandi Sabo.
Kishor versus Capt-Rahul team
Congress versus Congress is an old story in Punjab politics. But it now has a new twist. With poll strategist Prashant Kishor at the helm of affairs, a credit war is simmering not just between Kishor and the team of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, but also Randeep Surjewala and Vijay Inder Singla, who manage the communication cell for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. At Saturday’s interaction of Rahul with Punjab Congressmen at Zirakpur, as mediapersons complained of far-off venue and poor arrangements, a team member of Rahul was heard quipping: “For things that are good, you can give credit to Kishor and for those which are not, you can blame us.” Did we smell heartburn?
Amarinder and his army
By bringing Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans to Baisakhi rally in Talwandi Sabo to sing paeans to him, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh proved that his men stand by him. Amarinder had strongly supported his candidature for the Rajya Sabha and even got his name announced, but the Congress leadership did a U-turn within hours and changed its nominee. Curiously, Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo, who were given Rajya Sabha berths, stayed away from the Baisakhi rally. Hans, however, sang in support of Amarinder, calling him “rooh-e-rawan” of people of Punjab.
Manpreet’s new opponent
In politics, there is no dearth of adversaries. Manpreet Singh Badal, who recently merged his People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress, is already facing opposition in his new party. He has a ready opponent — one with tangible weight in the party — in Indian Youth Congress (IYC) national president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring. In his speech at Talwandi Sabo, Warring, who is MLA from Giddarbaha, rejected Manpreet’s suggestions to the state Congress chief to introduce BT maize and set up a “gaushala” in every block in the state in case the party comes to power. “It is important to punish those running the present government for their wrongdoings,” said the IYC chief.
Paying Akalis back in the same coin
The sarcastic one-liner jibes of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, which became famous 15 years ago, still draw applause from the people. When Amarinder, while addressing a rally in Talwandi Sabo on the occasion of Baisakhi, announced that on coming to power, he would make the Akalis reach Talwandi Sabo via Sriganganagar (Rajasthan) for next year’s political conference, there were loud cheers from the Congress supporters who had come to hear him speak. A number of Congressmen had complained to the Congress chief that Akalis were not allowing the party supporters reach the rally venue and were diverting their vehicles.
Media briefing or official bashing
The video conference of Union ministers Birender Singh, Narendra Singh Tomar, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Radha Mohan Singh and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore with Haryana newspersons on “Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday Abhiyan” last week did not go as planned. The media briefing began on a bitter note due to a misunderstanding between newspersons and IT professionals who were present at a facility set up for the former for the video conferencing at the state civil secretariat in Chandigarh. It so happened that some scribes showed keenness to ask questions, but felt the sound system was not proper. They insisted on use of individual mikes for asking questions. Chaos and ruckus carried on for several minutes with the scribes even going to extent of seeking action against one of the local officials at the top of their voices. They, however, were quietened after a technocrat of the National Informatics Centre (NIC), Delhi, informed that the centre — there were journalists waiting at several other state capitals also — would get a chance to put two or three questions to the ministers who, they held, had little time.
Sycophancy at its best
At a time when the opposition is gunning for Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh demanding his ouster, his loyalist Baldev Thakur, former head of a frontal organisation, quickly created a “Virbhadra Singh Brigade” causing flutters in the Congress. Alarmed, Himachal Congress president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu sprung into action without wasting much time to save the party from embarrassment, as most leaders who figured in brigade were senior leaders and office-bearers of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee. He quickly met the CM and persuaded him to direct Baldev to disband the brigade seen as an attempt to create a parallel outfit. While it is not known what happened when Virbhadra and Sukhu met on this issue, the subsequent disbanding of the “parallel outfit” has certainly boosted the morale of the state unit chief’s supporters who claim it be a win for the party.
Dev Vrat’s health tips
Himachal governor Acharya Dev Vrat is a man of simple tastes. The governor, who was the chief guest at a function held at Palampur to unveil Swami Vivkananda’s statue, had several simple health tips for the audience. Advocating simple living, the governor told them that what they eat these days is actually “dead food”. In his hour-long speech, the former Gurukul principal said over-cooking food makes it dangerous. He cited the example of bitter gourd, saying it is natural medicine and should be eaten raw. “But the torture it is subjected to in our kitchens takes away all its properties,” he said to laughter and applause all around.
Virbhadra’s tea diplomacy
The Left-dominated Shimla municipal corporation has been at loggerheads with the Congress government over several issues. When CM Virbhadra Singh met Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan and his deputy Tikender Panwar over tea last week, they took up some of these with him. The CM, after paying floral tributes to BR Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary, was to fly to Chintpurni for a public meeting. He, however, kept his chopper waiting at the Annandale helipad and instead took the mayor and deputy mayor for tea at government-run hotel Peterhoff.
So near and yet so far
Himachal Pradesh health minister Kaul Singh Thakur is seen by several Congress legislators as the “natural choice” to succeed chief minister Virbhadra Singh. But he himself tries to underplay it. “Daurney say koi chief minister nahin banta. Agar aisa hota toh main kab ka CM ban gaya hota (One doesn’t become the chief minister merely by being in reckoning. If this was possible, I would have made it much earlier),” is what the minister said when asked whether he still aspired to become the chief minister.
VHP’s Hindu ‘raja’ prod
The right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been nudging the Virbhadra Singh government, raising one or the other demand. It first demanded a ban on tie in schools and offices and then asked the state government to change Shimla’s name to Shymala. It has also asked Virbhadra to change the colonial names of buildings and towns of the British era. A VHP delegation, which called on Virbhadra recently, went a step further telling him that if he changes the colonial names, he will be remembered as a Hindu raja across the country. The CM had already earned praised from the organisation for setting up a board for protection of cows.
Bali’s manoeuvring skills
Known for his political manoeuvring skill, Himachal transport minister GS Bali often tries to twist things as per his convenience. When asked being a representative of a constituency dominated by people belonging to OBC (other backward classes) category what he had done to get them 27% reservation in the state, Bali was quick to throw the ball in Kangra MLA Pawan Kajal’s court. He said the Kangra legislator had listed a question in the budget session of the state assembly on this issue, but later withdrew it. To his surprise, Kajal, who usually talks very little, hit back with double force. He challenged the minister to prove his accusations. “Bali should stop fooling people,” he said.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Aarish Chhabra, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur)