Keeping tabs on power politics in Punajb, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Badal bonds with old friends
Their family bond is famous. Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law Union minister Harsimrat Badal, attended the lavish wedding reception of Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala last week. Badals spent about two hours at the reception in New Delhi’s Ashoka hotel. As per eyewitnesses, senior Badal, who, in his own words, has a “relationship of the heart” with the family of Devi Lal, was very happy to be part of the event. Akali MPs Prem Singh Chandumajra, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder also attended the function.
Silencing Sidhu, for a while
Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is famous for his repartee, but that’s not enough on a comedy show on a private television channel that he features in every week. The guests, who appear on the show, take digs at him sometimes. When Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans starred in the latest episode aired on Saturday, the show host asked him how it feels to be with a minister in the Congress government, a party that he had joined, left and then rejoined. “Sidhu once told me ‘main taan koi na koi jugaad karr hee launga, mainu tera fikkar hai’ (I will make some arrangement for myself, but I am worried about you),” pat came the reply. Next was the turn of female artist Upasana Singh who was questioned on self-promotion. “Here (on this show) cricketers and ministers get promoted,” she said to guffaws from the audience. Sidhu, the target of these wisecracks, was speechless.
More loyal than the ‘king’
Neutrality was never the hallmark of bureaucracy but in Punjab loyalty is all that counts. All the officers in key positions in chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh government are his or his chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar’s loyalists. But some babus know how to make a winning switch. They enjoyed “plum” postings in previous government and are again ruling the roost such as finance secretary Anirudh Tewari, power secretary A Venuprasad and excise and taxation commissioner VP Singh. Only those “too close for comfort” to former CM Parkash Singh Badal such as KJS Cheema, whose file for repatriation to West Bengal has been moved again, are facing the heat. For others, the CM’s office is letting one babu to fix another, like in the home department where information is being leaked to the press against a top cop. Call it ‘Games of Thrones’ among Punjab babus!
Dapper Dhindsa, devout Dhindsa
Politicians change their stripes when the occasion demands. Akali MLA and former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa is a case in point. Last Sunday, he was his suave self, rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful at the Chandigarh Golf Club elections. Known for his love for branded wear, the Lehra legislator was all cheers, sporting a royal blue T-shirt with a yellow turban to match. On Monday, he was unrecognisable as a picture of humility and remorse when he stood hands folded with a flowing beard before the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs. Attired in a white cotton kurta-pyjama, Dhindsa listened meekly as jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh pronounced ‘tankhah’ (religious punishment) on him and 38 other Sikh politicians. They were punished for violating the Akal Takht’s 2007 hukumnama (edict) by seeking political support from the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda during the 2017 poll campaign.
Social media-savvy (KBS) Sidhu
Punjab IAS officer and additional chief secretary, irrigation, KBS Sidhu is a social media aficionado. After a meeting with Union secretary of water resources Amarjeet Singh on SYL issue, he posted on his Facebook page: “When there is no water, how can we marooned (sic)”. Replying to a comment, he later wrote, “Water water everywhere not a drop to drink”. The posts followed the meeting in which Sidhu and the state chief secretary told the Centre that Punjab had no water to spare. The IAS officer’s social media friends responded promptly. One used the hashtag BadshahofSYL to post a remark. “Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, and therefore I forbid my tears,” another follower posted, taking a cue from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Dushyant Chautala’s gala wedding
Last week saw India‘s youngest Member of Paliament Dushyant Chautala, son of ex-MP Ajay Chautala and grandson of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, tying the nuptial knot with Meghna, daughter of IPS officer Paramjit Ahlawat. Aside from a series of functions at Hisar and Sirsa, the marriage took place in Gurugram and the gala reception was held at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi. That the ceremonies were attended by the who’s who of country goes without saying. Besides Union ministers, governors, chief ministers and MPs, sports stars, bureaucrats from Haryana and other top-notch personalities were at the wedding reception to bless the couple. The groom’s father and grandfather, who are serving a 10-year sentence in JBT teachers’ recruitment case, were granted parole by the court to attend his wedding.
‘Lal batti’ ban turns into photo-op
After the Narendra Modi government decided to ban beacons, their removal from atop their official vehicles by several ministers and politicians created a buzz in Haryana last week. The social media was rife with photographs showing ministers, including Kavita Jain and Manish Grover, and Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala personally themselves removing the red beacons. While public relations officers (PROs) of several politicos called up reporters to capture the golden moments of ministers becoming aam aadmis, a close associate of Rohtak MP Deepender Hooda’s was busy boasting that the MP never used a red beacon atop his car. Indian National Lok Dal MLA Balwan Singh Daulatpuria also took to Twitter to dub the exercise as “photo sessions”.
Goel’s tender gesture
A tender gesture by ministry of industries and commerce, skill development and environment Vipul Goel in Faridabad by asking people to show compassion to birds touched many hearts. Organised by Faridabad Navchetna Trust led by Goel, the ‘save birds to save the world’ campaign was launched by Union woman and child development minister Maneka Gandhi last week. People were given free water bowls (earthen vessels) for their balconies which could save birds in the scorching summer heat. Maneka lauded Goel’s gesture, saying that it would certainly make a big difference to ecology and help save birds.
Privileged no more: CPS’ gripe
Himachal Pradesh chief parliamentary secretary Neeraj Bharti chose the social media path to shun the beacon from his vehicle. Bharti posted pictures of himself removing the amber beacon from his vehicle, but he could not hide his pain. “The ban appears to be surgical strike not only on the dignitaries entitled for beacons but also for those manufacturing beacons,” he posted on Facebook. Another gripe was that no newspaper would carry his pictures while removing beacon. Raj Bhawan was the first to release photos of Governor Acharya Devvrat removing beacons from his official vehicles.
Virbhadra’s ‘sarfaroshi…’ chant
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, whose troubles have mounted lately due to the ongoing inquiries, chose to be very “patriotic” when he was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to New Delhi in connection with a money laundering case. The CM, who had consistently denied the charges, recited a few lines of a patriotic poem, Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna, written by Bismil Azimabadi. “Sarforshi kiy Tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hei. Dekhna hein key zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil mein hai,” was all he said when confronted by mediapersons outside the ED headquarters in the national capital.
(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Yojana Yadav, Rajesh Moudgil, Hardik Anand, Gaurav Bisht)