Union minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha, who came to SAS Nagar on Saturday to interact with representatives of industry at Swadeshi Mela, was repeatedly referred to as “junior Jaitley” by the event organisers. Punjab industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal was among those who kept calling him “chhote Jaitely”, as Jaitley is finance minister and Sinha his MoS. “Agar Jaitley ko koi aur department mil jaaye toh Jayant bade bhi ho jayengea (If Jaitley gets some other department, Jayant will get a bigger role,”) he said, going a step further. An alumnus of Harvard and IIT-Delhi, Jayant, son of BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, was an investment banker before joining politics.
Jayant’s Punjab connection
Punjab industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal was his usual talkative self at Swadeshi Mela. Welcoming union minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha, he said: “You are from Bihar and would not know about Punjabi culture and food”. But Jayant was quick to respond: “I may hail from Bihar, but I am son-in -law of Punjab. My wife is from Punjab.” Mittal was equally quick to take back his words. “Then you will be well aware of our eating habits and culture,” he said.
BJP stunned, but SAD all smiles
Bihar poll results have stunned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but top leaders of its Punjab ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), were all smiles on Sunday. When asked about the rout of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in which their party is a constituent, they responded with a grin. Akali MPs Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema were addressing a joint press conference on the issue of ‘Sarbat Khalsa’. While they chose not to utter a word about the BJP’s poor show, Dhindsa congratulated Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United). When asked about some BJP leaders’ pre-poll statement that Bihar outcome would have a “bearing” on the SAD-BJP coalition in Punjab, Dhindsa replied with a smile: “This is what I am saying, our alliance with the BJP is as strong as ever.”
Protest effect on Badal
The recent protests have not only put the Akalis on the backfoot, but also made chief minister Parkash Singh Badal change his media interaction strategy. The CM, who usually interacts with reporters after his public programmes and answers some of their queries, shied away from doing so during his last visit to Amritsar. Asked about the situation in the state, Badal was reticent. “I am here to pay obeisance and won’t say anything,” he said. But when the curious reporters, refusing to pay heed, lobbed more questions, his reply was: “Tussi mainu majboor nai kar sakde (You cannot force me).”
Ludhiana Cong leaders’ social media craze
Congress leaders of Ludhiana have been trying to be “innovative” in using social media to improve their people-connect. In its bid, the district Congress committee headed by Gurpreet Gogi has actually gone overboard in recent months, inviting mocking remarks. The DCC greetings - a poster bearing names and pictures of AICC president, vice-president and Ludhiana MP, besides a picture of Gogi with folded hands – pop up on WhatsApp early in the morning. “Greetings from Gogi from overseas have been drawing chuckles,” commented one of the recipients.
The reception hosted by Haryana Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on his nephew’s wedding at New Delhi a fortnight ago saw remarkable political bonhomie. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was also present at the function, was being introduced to guests by Hooda, the former was quick to spot Congress MLA Karan Singh Dalal and Independent legislator Jai Prakash. Modi warmly met Dalal, saying “yeh to hamare aadmi hain”. He was probably referring to Dalal’s futile efforts to join the BJP before the 2000 assembly polls. Modi was his party’s in-charge of Haryana at that time. The PM also met Jai Prakash warmly, citing his old association with the former Congressman. The bonhomie also showed how times change. Hooda had in 2014 vowed never to share the dais with Modi after being booed by crowd at PM’s function in Kaithal. However, Modi had later called Hooda, a CM then, over for tea to pacify him. The two have known each other for long and apparently share some rapport.
Birender’s jibe at IITians
Union minister for rural development and panchayati raj Birender Singh was his usual candid self at a seminar on climate change in Chandigarh the other day. Expressing his reservations on IIT pass-outs opting for civil services, the minister said they should not be wasting the nation’s money if they had to join the administrative service subsequently. He said that people like him, who could not study sciences and technology and opted for humanities instead, should be in administration. Birender, whose son is a Haryana-cadre IAS officer, did not stop there. “You will excuse me for saying this, I know certain batches of UPSC where the toppers did not opt for IAS (Indian Administrative Service), but they went for IRS (Indian Revenue Service). You know why……,” he said to an attentive but giggling audience, gesturing with thumb and first finger to denote money.
Jailed Ajay Chautala gets Facebook likes
Haryana politicians are becoming increasingly active on the social media. But the “verified” status of ‘Facebook’ page of jailed INLD leader Ajay Singh Chautala has generated considerable curiosity. Ajay and his father, former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, are undergoing jail term in the teachers’ recruitment case. The “blue and white tick” on his page, signifying confirmation by Facebook that this is an authentic page for “this public figure”, has secured for Ajay Chautala a coveted status only a few netas enjoy in the state. He appears to be a big hit on the social networking service, as over 2.49-lakh people have liked his page. The page is regularly updated with pictures, video clips and newspaper clippings about the INLD functions.
Hoodas bat for farmers
Poor condition of farmers has given a ready opportunity to opposition leaders to hit out at the BJP government in Haryana. Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his MP son Deepender Singh Hooda have gone out of their home district of Rohtak to express their solidarity with farmers. They held a demonstration in grain market of Jind where Hooda tried to show how he had done better in his nine-year rule than the Khattar government in the state. Hoardings comparing prices of paddy were installed at the venue. Deepender reached the grain market in a tractor-trailer. While their protest has not ensured any relief for the farmers, it did manage to bring most party leaders, barring Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhry, flock on one platform.
Vik ramaditya’s cricket tourney
The Himachal Sports, Cultural and Environment Association headed by Congress leader Vikramaditya, son of chief minister Virbhadra Singh, recently held a cricket tournament on the ground of his alma mater, Bishop Cotton School. Four teams — Governor’s XI, Chief Minister’s XI, Board Chairman’s XI and one comprising journalists — played in the tournament that saw participation of the who’s who of the state. However, newly inducted ayurveda minister Karan Singh did not show up. He took permission from his cricket team captain, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma, to attend his office in the state civil secretariat. And, it was seen by some as a sign of his “dedication to work”.
BJP men in CM’s XI
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators had last year boycotted the annual cricket event hosted by Congress Vikramaditya Singh, but three of them figured in the chief minister’s XI this time. The trio — Vinod Kumar, Hansraj and Baldev Tomar — exhibited their cricketing skills. Vinod Kumar scored 89 runs, whereas Churah legislator Hansraj gave sound cricketing advice to Vikramaditya. Most other BJP legislators were not seen, though.
Bali takes on mediapersons
Himachal Pradesh transport minister GS Bali has a good rapport with newspersons, but he was in a different mood the other day. He called a press conference to go after a section of the media. What provoked him was the discussion aired on a private news channel on a case involving top leadership of his party. He criticised the channel for raking up an issue pending in a court. But, then, politicians are known to be selective in their memory. A case of selective outrage, isn’t it?
HP corporation’s loan blues
Recovery of bad loans has been a tricky issue for the Himachal Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (HBCFDC) in the hill state. Like previous years, recovery is the top priority of the corporation again this year so that it does not go into the red. At a press conference, former minister Chaudhary Chander Kumar, who heads the corporation, told reporters that HBCFDC had decided to disburse loans to the tune of `5 crore with a loan-recovery target of `30 crore. Now that’s not a sound balance sheet at all. The annual work plan, quipped a wag, is making the corporation look more like a recovery department than a financial institution.
Bir golf courseplan hits a bump
At the Paragliding World Cup held recently at Bir, chief minister Virbhadra Singh and urban development minister Sudhir Sharma had announced to develop a golf course in the village to make it a tourism hub. But the plan has hit the first trough at the start. Those enthused by the idea assuming that the golf course would be developed on government land have now realised that the state plans to acquire land for the facility. And, protests have become order of the day in Bir where a global event was held just a week ago.
Shimla mayor feels the heat
All is not well in the Shimla municipal corporation. Leftist mayor Sanjay Chauhan and deputy mayor Tikender Singh Panwar have been under intense attack from councillors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over the sewage cess issue. The reason: Chauhan overstepped his jurisdiction during the recent general house meeting. When Congress and BJP representatives together raise the issue, the young mayor lost his cool and said that his party would launch an indefinite agitation against the state government for lowering the cess.
J-K package comes as relief for Mufti
The announcement of economic package by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Srinagar was news for all, but not chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The CM had held a meeting with the PM in the national capital and was quite happy with its outcome. He had called the state finance minister and informed him that Modi had almost agreed to the package and would announce it. And, it’s this meeting wherein the PM’s visit, which Mufti termed as “historic”, was planned. The CM needed the package as the government was bogged down by too many controversies and had failed to get off the blocks in the manner he had wanted. The financial assistance is expected to help him blunt the opposition attack.
Contributed by Shailee Dogra, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Aseem Bassi, Anshu Seth,Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Vishal Joshi, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur, Saurabh Chauhan and Tarun Upadhyay