Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir:
Sukhbir & Co’s Sharjah tour to cost exchequer Rs 12 lakh
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir singh Badal-led delegation’s two-day round trip to Sharjah on the first international flight from Chandigarh will cost the exchequer Rs 12 lakh. The 10-member delegation will take the Air India Express flight on September 15 and attend a four-hour meeting with investors in Dubai the next day. The trip cost will come from the investment promotion campaign fund. The ‘Outreach Visit’ is aimed at attracting investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in infrastructure development, information technology and food-processing. The delegation will have four ministers, five officers and seven Akali MLAs. Initially, the delegation was bigger and included some BJP leaders such as industry minister Madan Mohan Mittal and MLAs KD Bhandari and Som Parkash, but they were dropped. “I am not aware of any delegation and no one even consulted me. If they are only taking SAD MLAs, it is their sweet will” is all Som Parkash was willing to say.
Blessing in disguise for Chhotepur!
Being removed from a post by a political party is usually seen as a setback for a politician. But for Sucha Singh Chhotepur, his removal as convener of the Aam Aadmi Party has resurrected him. Just 10 days ago, his house in Mohali wore a deserted look. He would barely have a few visitors. But ever since he landed in the ‘cash video sting’ controversy for which he was removed from the post, his house is buzzing with people. All rooms are packed with supporters waiting to see him. His phone has not stopped ringing since. NRI Punjabis are openly pledging support on social media. As they say, for politicians no news is bad news.
When Shergill fumbled for answers
Aam Aam Party (AAP) leader Himmat Singh Shergill held a press conference in the backyard of his Sector 16 house at Chandigarh the other day to refute Sucha Singh Chhotepur’s allegations that national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is ‘anti-Sikhi’. Donning a black waistcoat over kurta pyjama, he tried to rebut the charge, but landed in a controversy instead. He could not answer the queries convincingly. Then, he, while trying to justify his party’s stand on the sting on Chhotepur, took names of journalists sitting in the front row and asked: “What if you face a charge and there’s no option to prove it? So, it is best to do a sting”. AAP, rocked by a series of crises, needs a better performance.
Jakhar vs Soni vs Channi
In last year’s rejig, the Congress appointed Ambika Soni as the campaign committee head after working out its caste and religion poll math. Its other Hindu face, Sunil Jakhar, lost his post as CLP leader to party’s Dalit pick, Charanjit Singh Channi. But a lobby within Congress close to poll strategist Prashant Kishor now wants to replace Soni with Sunil Jakhar as the Hindu face. The logic is to appease angry Jakhar and get someone who can raise issues and do the running around. That very much explains Jakhar’s “over-activism” in recent times and Soni’s discomfort with it. Call it divide Hindus and rule policy!
Jakhar doesn’t have ‘lust for chair’
Punjab Congress leader Sunil Jakhar sat among the journalists at a press conference of state unit chief Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday. The reason: he found all the four chairs kept for leaders hurriedly occupied by his colleagues eager to sit beside the former chief minister. When Amarinder noticed this, he asked Jakhar to join him. But Jakhar replied: “I am fine here with my journalist bhai log (brothers)”. He later mocked those who had grabbed the chairs, citing “lust for chair”.
Hoarding gaffe lands Chawla in wrong house
When Union finance minister Arun Jaitley visited Amritsar recently, BJP veteran leader Laxmi Kanta Chawla went to meet him. But she was deceived by a welcome hoarding and went into a house adjacent to the minister’s residence. Chawla went in hoping to find Jaitley, but was told by journalists and party workers that she had entered the wrong house. “Kinni waddi galti hai. Naal de ghar hi hoarding laa dita,” she said before heading for Jaitley’s house.
Politicians and their deft moves
The dilly-dallying by suspended SAD MLA Pargat Singh to join AAP fuelled speculations about his joining the Congress. The news was enough to ruffle the feathers of former MLA and Jalandhar (rural) Congress Committee president Jagbir Singh Brar, who had contested as party’s nominee in 2012 state elections. Soon, there was news of Brar likely to join SAD along with his rebuttal in a newspaper considered close to the Badals. Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh was quick to appoint Brar as one of the five members of the manifesto committee. Many in Congress were amused by the news. “Even politicians now know how to plant stories,” one of the Congress leaders quipped.
Polls are near, so are youth camps
Months before Punjab goes to the polls, some ‘lucky’ youths get a chance to enjoy the climes of hills at the expense of the Punjab government. This has happened thrice — in 2006, 2011 and 2016. Some of the participants, who attended the 10-day Naggar camp near Manali that concluded on Friday, said they appreciated the initiative of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, but were also aware why this is happening at this time. Have they spotted a trend?
Haryana Cong leaders face heat, literally
Congress leaders, led by former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda held a short protest march against Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana in CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s constituency Karnal the other day. While they boasted that they would continue their fight for the rights of farmers, several of them could not bear the scorching heat. After Hooda and others reached the mini secretariat on a tractor, the first thing several of them did was to search for space inside the secretariat building for shade to protect themselves from the searing heat. Gannaur MLA and former assembly speaker Kuldeep Sharma, who was holding the mike and lavishing praise on Hooda, also looked uncomfortable. After the ex-CM started his speech, a party worker noticed Sharma and took him to the SDM’s office. All for a cause!
KU V-C’s media management
Kurukshetra University vice-chancellor Dr Kailash Chandra Sharma had to face uncomfortable questions at his first press conference recently. The VC, who met journalists at the university’s international guest house, did not seem to like their questions, but handled them tactfully. He seemed upset over the negative reports by a section of media on the institution. “Jab koi choti si galat news hoti hai to aap 5 column with photo chap dete ho, or positive news ko highlight nahi karte,” he said, on being asked about the executive council’s decision to reappoint an assistant professor held guilty of sexual harassment of girl students. When the journalists objected to his statement, Sharma also directed the public relations department of the university to provide “regular feed” to them, especially positive stories.
Kejriwal of Haryana: Capt Abhimanyu’s take on Dalal
Congress MLA Karan Dalal made news last week by alleging that finance minister Capt Abhimanyu had financial stakes in a stone mine in Bhiwani which was allowed monopoly by the state government. But how Abhimanyu trashed them also created a buzz. After Dalal’s press conference where he demanded a CBI inquiry, the FM also quickly called journalists for his side of the story. Terming the charges “false and mischievous”, he said Dalal was the Kejriwal of Haryana Congress. “Inki naam raishi bhi ek hi hai,” he added, meaning that their names begin with the same alphabet. Abhimanyu said the allegations were a ridiculous attempt by Dalal to divert public attention from the privilege motion admitted against him by the state assembly.
A true Virbhadra aide
Shimla superintendent of police DW Negi does not miss any opportunity to show his loyalty to chief minister Virbhadra Singh. He had a long stint as in-charge of the CM’s security and even served him in Delhi when Virbhadra was in the steel ministry. Negi took a special 10-day leave recently, as the CM was scheduled to visit his (the officer’s) native village Rarang in Kinnaur district. The officer’s elder brother TG Negi, who retired as additional chief secretary, is also currently re-employed as principal secretary to chief minister.
Himachal CM shows tribals his dance moves
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s fondness for tribals of Kinnaur district is well-known across the state. He frequently visits the area that that was once a part of his erstwhile princely state Bushahr. His media managers also try their best to give maximum publicity to his visits. When the octogenarian CM visited Kinnaur recently, they released pictures of him being hugged by aged women. But what caught everyone’s attention were photos showing him dancing with a group of locals.
(Contributed by Hillary Victor, Chitleen K Sethi, Sukhdeep Kaur, Aseem Bassi, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Prabhjit Singh, Neeraj Mohan, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht)