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Regional Buzz: Keeping tabs on Power Politics across region this week

punjab Updated: Nov 23, 2015 16:45 IST

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HP guv’s Haryana Love

Acharya Dev Vrat is the governor of Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh, but his love and affection for the people of neighbouring Haryana continues to bring him back to his home state where he was the principal of Gurukul (an educational institution) for more than 30 years. He keeps visiting different districts of the state to attend functions. While the Virbhadra Singh government may not be missing him much, his frequent visits mean extra work for the short-staffed police force in Haryana. The HP governor, after attending a function at a college in Yamunanagar district recently, decided to visit his old friends in some small villages of the area. While his friends were pleasantly surprised, the police personnel on security duty had to be on their toes for several hours. Also, Dev Vrat’s deep attachment with the Gurukul in Kurukshetra, where he is still the “pracharya” as per the official website of the institution, also remains strong as ever.

Tip for troubled times

Amid reports that SAD minister Sikandar Singh Maluka was slapped by an old man in a public meeting the other day, veteran Akali leader Jathedar Tota Singh doesn’t want his ministerial colleagues to feel disheartened. He has a piece of advice for them: “Be alert and be in public as far as possible.” Tota Singh further says: “There are all sorts of people in the crowd and they may try to hit you or raise slogans or hurl a shoe. Such things are very common in politics.” Top world leaders such as George Bush, according to him, have also faced such situations which are very normal in politics.

Facing a legal hurdle

There were two wise souls in the otherwise “self-serving” cabinet of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal when an agenda was tabled for the first time to amend a section of the IPC to punish those guilty of hurting religious sentiments with life imprisonment. Rattled by the episodes of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, some advisers of the government were pushing key bureaucrats to bring in the agenda without seeking the opinion of the legal remembrancer. Some babus in the chief minister’s office (CMO) and deputy CMO were also interested. The issue was hotly debated in the cabinet.

While some officers, the grapevine has it, tactfully convinced the political bosses about the far-reaching consequences, there were ministers keen to see the agenda through. When two ministers spoke against the amendment, it was shelved. However, the agenda was again listed in Thursday’s cabinet meeting and approved.

Now the question being debated in political and administrative circles is whether the amendment will actually see the light of the day. Many see it as an ill-conceived move that may not stand legal scrutiny.

Return of the ‘darbar’

With reports of his likely coronation as Punjab Congress chief, the former ‘maharaja’ of Patiala, Captain Amarinder Singh, is once again playing the perfect host and making a beeline to his royal spreads are even foes-turned-friends and those who had switched loyalties. The launch of his book on 1965 war in Chandigarh last week was lavish not just in the spread but also in numbers. Though most guests had bigger appetite for the “Patiala peg” than talk on the war, it showed which side the winds are blowing in the Congress. The more telling signs though are Captain praising Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the symphony between Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and Amarinder who are both training their guns at the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, not each other. But Congressmen are worried about how long can the two play the unity game if Rahul decides to delay the coronation.

Venting out anger against deputy CM

The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been making desperate attempts to assuage flared tempers after the recent sacrilege incidents in the state. But its efforts have had limited success. When SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal held a meeting with party workers and leaders in Ludhiana recently to discuss the political scenario, the party brigade plastered the city with posters.

Not in a welcoming mood, some rebels tore them off. The strongest reaction was the “removal” of the deputy CM’s face from one of the posters. A picture was later circulated on social media with the caption “defacement”.

A lesson well learnt

After Mangal Singh Sandhu, officiating director of the Punjab agriculture department, was arrested for the pesticide scam, things appear to have seen a drastic change there. Due to shortage of wheat seed, the beginning of rabi season was considered tough.

But the department officers had apparently learnt their lesson. And, none of them meddled in purchase and sale of wheat seeds to farmers which was handled by the Punjab Agricultural University and the State Seeds Corporation. “Perhaps Sandhu’s arrest served as a deterrent. Though wellconnected, he wasn’t spared,” remarked a joint director rank officer.

Scuffle between CPS, deputy CM’s asst media adviser

Punjab chief parliamentary secretary Sarup Chand Singla and the deputy chief minister’s assistant media adviser Harjinder Singh Sidhu haven’t been on best of terms for some time. The duo had a nasty scuffle at a party event in Bathinda on Saturday night. The CPS had left the venue, but returned on being informed that one of his security guards had been “detained” by Sidhu’s security staff. The two SAD men then got into a fight. Soon, Singla’s supporters also arrived. Sensing trouble, Sidhu scampered into deputy commissioner Basant Garg’s residence, adjacent to the club, for cover. Both Singla and Sidhu later blamed each other. Not a happy situation for the beleaguered SAD.

The magnificent triumph of the Nitish Kumar-led ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) in Bihar has got the opposition Congress in Haryana excited. Routed in the parliamentary and assembly polls last year, Congress leaders, who continue to spar over minor matters, are clutching at straws. While many of them have made statements or posted glowing comments on social media about their party’s showing, former power minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, whose son is married to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter, posted on Twitter and Facebook pictures of his family with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Yadav, who also reportedly helped his party seal the seat deal in Bihar, and his family met Rahul and Sonia on November 10 and 11, respectively, to congratulate them for the JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance’s victory. Yadav and former chief minister.

Nitish win excites Haryana Congmen

The magnificent triumph of the Nitish Kumar-led ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) in Bihar has got the opposition Congress in Haryana excited. Routed in the parliamentary and assembly polls last year, Congress leaders, who continue to spar over minor matters, are clutching at straws. While many of them have made statements or posted glowing comments on social media about their party’s showing, former power minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, whose son is married to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter, posted on Twitter and Facebook pictures of his family with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Yadav, who also reportedly helped his party seal the seat deal in Bihar, and his family met Rahul and Sonia on November 10 and 11, respectively, to congratulate them for the JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance’s victory. Yadav and former chief minister.

Poor show but high spirits

The poor turnout at a rally in Jind last week was embarrassing for the BJP bigwigs, but party general secretary (in-charge of party affairs in Haryana) Dr Anil Jain was unruffled. When asked about “not much” attendance at the public meeting addressed by chief minister Manohar Lal

Khattar, Union rural development and panchayati raj minister Birender Singh and other party leaders, he gave an uncanny response.

“I think the photographers clicked the pictures before the rally had even begun and when not all chairs had been occupied. Since the rally began on time, many came later on. It was finally a good gathering,’’ he told reporters. A video of the event that went viral showed that school children had been brought to the venue for the “grand” show.

Divided colours of Congress

Colours matter in the faction-ridden Congress unit in Haryana, literally as well as figuratively. While supporters of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda don pink pagris at various party functions, red turbans and scarves are preferred by Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and his cohorts.

The latest to jump into the “colour contest” is Congress’ national spokesman and Kaithal MLA Randeep Surjewala whose supporters wore brown turbans at a demonstration held at Karnal recently to oppose power tariff hike in the state. Now, Tanwar is scheduled to lead another protest against the Khattar government in Mewat on November 24. He is hoping to see lots of red turbans there to show his following in the state.

Politics at play

Congress leader Surender Narwal, trounced comprehensively by BJP’s Manohar Lal Khattar (now the chief minister) in Karnal in the state assembly elections last year, planned the “inauguration” of a vegetable market in the district. Two days before its official opening by Khattar, he contacted local journalists requesting them to reach the new grain market for a “hot story”.

Later, the Congress leader emailed photos of the “inauguration” ceremony with party banners carrying photographs of former CM Bhupinder Hooda and him. Acting swiftly, the administration got a criminal case registered against Narwal for hatching a conspiracy, trespassing etc. As pressure mounted, Narwal pleaded innocence at a news conference. “The farmers had approached me to start work at the mandi planned by the Congress government. I and some others had joined them,” he said, accusing the government of implicating him.

The unruffled Himachal CM

With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate filing cases against him one after the other, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh has been under intense attack from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP is repeatedly pressing for his resignation, but the CM is showing no signs of worry. Virbhadra went for the swearing-in ceremony of Nitish Kumar who took over the reins of Bihar for the fifth time. Though several of his ministers were keen to attend the event in Patna, he went there alone.

Nothing less than FBI probe will do for HP bigwigs

The political rivalry between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal is well known in political circles in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. While the BJP leader raises noise levels every time the CBI or any other central agency makes a move against Virbhadra Singh, the chief minister had constituted a special investigation team (SIT) in the state to pin down his predecessor. But now Virbhadra and Dhumal have taken their fight to another level. They want the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the national law enforcement agency of the United States, to look into the assets and properties of the other, leaving people wondering about the trust they have in the investigating agencies here.

Gaffes galore at Youth Cong event

To lambast the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for failing to check price rise, the Himachal Youth Congress held a rally at Ambedkar Chowk in Shimla recently. Youth Congress chief Vikramaditya Singh, son of chief minister Virbhadra Singh, made an extra effort for its success. But the irony was that it turned out a meet of elderly workers who clearly outnumbered the youth activists of the ruling Congress. What’s more, the mistakes made by irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes in her speech became a talking point. The octogenarian minister first addressed Virbhadra as the Prime Minister. Then, she referred to representatives of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) as members of All India Congress Committee (AICC).

HP sectt a ‘haunted house’

The opposition BJP has been speaking against the absence of Congress ministers and state bureaucrats from their offices in HP civil secretariat for quite some time. As nothing much appears to have changed, BJP legislator from Shimla Suresh Bhardwaj recently described the secretariat as a “bhoot bangla” (haunted house). “There is hardly anyone sitting there on working days. It wears a deserted look,” said a disappointed Bhardwaj after visiting the secretariat to meet some ministers.

(Contributed by Neeraj Mohan, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Pawan Sharma, Anshu Seth, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Vishal Joshi and Gaurav Bisht)

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