When Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar and other trouble-torn parts of the state on Saturday, Congress leader and former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the Akalis and some BJP leaders were seen criticising him for visiting the state. They accused him of coming to the state with an eye on the 2017 assembly elections and ignoring serious issues in the national capital where he leads the government. Amarinder, who is usually overlooked by private TV channel — PTC — owned by the Badals, was not only given ample time to slam Kejriwal but was given prominence over Akali leaders who, too, had given sound bytes on the Delhi chief minister’s visit. What do you think it is? Turf war or a sign of insecurity?
Using Panthic prefixes
Call it the signs of difficult times. The statement issued by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday evening at a joint meeting of Akali leaders with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief and its executive members reeked of more Panthic-than-thou prefixes. The SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal becomes “Sardar”, each Akali leader or minister has “Jathedar” as prefix and, surprise of surprises, Harcharan Bains, apparently also the author of the press release, has suddenly got “Singh” inserted in his name. Curiously, clean-shaven Bains, in the political press release, mentioned himself as the general secretary of the party, conveniently glossing over the fact that he holds an official designation as the media adviser to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Most importantly, the release tried to completely hush up the presence of SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar and the executive members by making no mention of them.
Govt’s hour of crisis
As protests against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib peaked last week, the official residence of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in Sector 2 of Chandigarh wore a deserted look. Due to blockades by the protesters on most of the roads across the state, there were not many who could reach the city to meet the top leaders in their hour of crisis. The Akali leaders, jolted by the firestorm of protests, had nothing much to offer. “We have witnessed such a scene for the first time in eight years of the Akali government,” commented an insider.
Oath of secrecy
Transparency and accountability become the first casualties whenever a government is in turmoil due to its own mishandling of state affairs. After the law and order situation went out of control in Punjab due to sacrilege incidents, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s first diktat to his senior party colleagues was not to share anything discussed or debated in closed-door meetings. Not satisfied with their assurance, he told them to swear by God before leaving the meeting room to ensure they do not spill the beans. Whenever asked to share what transpired in the party’s closed-door meetings, many senior Akali leaders expressed their helplessness, saying they are bound by the oath of secrecy they had taken before the chief minister.
Procurement takes a backseat
Punjab food and supplies department officials are claiming paddy procurement to be a smooth affair this kharif season. Not because all is well in the state mandis, but because no one has the time to focus or talk about procurement. The reason, according to an official, is that the state government is facing a much bigger problem with the Sikh protests rocking the state. The CM, who usually keeps himself abreast of the procurement plans, has not been able to pay much attention this time.
Bains brothers keep cops on toes
With the prevailing circumstances which are everything but favourable for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), independent MLAs Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains are adding to woes of the ruling party. The duo and their supporters came out on roads to stage a protest against the government and are all set to hold a march across the state. The police, after getting an order from deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, have tried every trick to contain them and were even contemplating to slap Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code on Simarjit Singh Bains, who outsmarted a huge brigade of police and reached Chandigarh to protest against the death of two protestors in police firing. Their supporters have also kept the Ludhiana cops on their toes.
‘Effective’ Haryana govt
Haryana politicians love to make grand assertions about their performance with claims of being number one or the first to do things. If the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government had gone to town with his “Number 1 Haryana” claim in 2009 through an “unprecedented” ad blitzkrieg, his successor, Manohar Lal Khattar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has his own claims to make in his first year. With the “ab hai ek asardaar sarkar” (now there is effective government) tagline in its publicity campaign, the Khattar government, which has completed one year, is making claims about things done for the first time in the history of the state (pradesh ke itihaas mein pehli baar). The stress is on pehli baar and asardaar sarkar.
Khattar govt left red-faced
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his ministerial colleagues have beef ban and cow protection on top of their agenda. The state government has banned sale of all kinds of beef, passing a law with stringent provisions, including jail term and fine to punish violators. But the top brass of the government was left red-faced when a widely-circulated publication of a government department suggested consumption of “beef, lamb, veal and pork”. The article on iron, one of the important micro-nutrients required for human body on a daily basis, recommended beef and veal, besides other animal and vitamin C-rich foods, as “enhancers” that directly affect the absorption of iron. While the department officials feel the writer may not have thought of a dietary issue in political terms and its publication was inadvertent, the article has riled the political top brass of the state.
Theft blame on govt
When the Congress office in Jind was burgled twice, Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar promptly took a dig at the ruling BJP government. Through his official handle, he tweeted “Jind ke jila Congress karyalya mein pichhle do mahine mein do baar chori hui hai. Lagta hai sarkar va police choron ke samne bebus hai ya unke saath hai’’ (The district office of Jind has been burgled twice in the past week and the government and the police are incapable of nabbing them or are with the thieves). The police or the government may not like it, but his tweet got re-tweeted quite a few times.
Poster boy of religious functions
He is the chief minister of Haryana, but Manohar Lal Khattar appears to have emerged as the “poster boy” of religious organisations in his Karnal assembly constituency. The reason: Khattar gets regular invites to ceremonies and functions by such groups and has attended several of them in recent months. When the CM recently made a surprise visit to new grain market in the area, his gesture was appreciated by the people. A father-son duo from a nearby village had their own take, though. “Hum jab bhi shahar mein aate hain Khattar ji sirf dharmik postron par dikte hain. Woh ya to havanon pe jate hain and mandir wale unka swagat karte hain. Gaon ki taraf to abhi moonh bhi nahin kiya (Whenever we come to the city, we see Khattar’s photos on religious posters. He is yet to turn towards the villages),” they said.
System of ‘link officers’
Haryana has a system of “link officers” whenever an IAS officer goes on leave, training or even an election duty. But then good moves also have their limitations. When eight IAS officers of 1984 to 1988 batches left for a four-week mandatory mid-career training programme two weeks ago, the state authorities appeared assured of having substitutes. But they later realised that the “link officer” for additional chief secretary, animal husbandry, was the officer in-charge of fisheries. Both charges were with the same officer. The state government had to give the additional charge of the two departments to a 1984 batch IAS officer during the training period of the officer in-charge. However, the state authorities took 10 days to post the substitute. The concept of “link officers” was started to cut this delay.
Virbhadra slams media
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh has been frequenting Delhi lately, giving rise to all kinds of speculation. While his trips coincide with the court hearings of his cases, they cause anxiety in political circles with several ministers, including his detractors, also heading to Delhi to ensure their presence in the national capital. The media hype over his Delhi visits has not gone down well with the chief minister. Not the one to take things lying down, he has griped about the same in his media interactions.
War of supremacy
The organisational polls in the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have triggered a war of supremacy among Himachal leaders. The polls for the block unit in the Chopal assembly segment clearly brought out the sharp differences between two senior party leaders – former horticulture minister Narender Bragta and former Rajya Sabha member and MLA Suresh Bhardwaj – in Shimla district who tried to gain control over the organisation. Bragta is a staunch loyalist of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal whereas Bhardwaj has his own clout in the party. The two groups resorted to blows and kicks, leaving the observers sent by the party leadership helpless.
Official faux pas
Himachal irrigation, public health and horticulture minister Vidya Stokes had mended her fences with her one-time rival chief minister Virbhadra Singh ahead of the assembly polls and has been backing him ever since. During his recent visit to Rohru assembly segment, Virbhadra was to lay the foundation stone for a marketing yard. To his surprise, the CM found the octogenarian minister’s name missing from the plaque even though it had Agriculture Produce Market Committee (Shimla) chairman Mohinder Stan’s name on it. The CM, known for his mercurial temper, pulled up a government official for the faux pas. Stokes later ordered an inquiry to fix responsibility for the lapse.
Preity’s missing bag
Bollywood’s “dimpled girl” Preity Zinta, who was in her home state the other day for the Paragliding World Cup-2015 at Bir-Billing in Kangra valley, reportedly lost her bags in the flight. When the co-owner of a cricket team in the Indian Premier League was asking one of her aides at the airport about the bag, a senior government official, who was there to catch a glimpse of the celebrity, offered his help and rushed to find it. Despite his best efforts, he could not find it and returned disappointed. “Exhausted, jet-lagged and a bit on the edge airlines misplaced my bags (sic)” is what the actor tweeted in the evening.
Cong’s rout in Ladakh
The results of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council are the last thing the Congress expected, having been reduced from 21 to just four seats. The rout is a personal setback to Congress MLA from Ladakh and leader of the legislature party Rigzin Jora. After a setback in the assembly elections, the party, to rejuvenate its cadres, had tried to corner the state government (read BJP) on every issue and was said to be getting some success in changing the perception and political narrative. The shaken Congress leadership is re-strategising to take on the BJP which had supported union territory status to Ladakh. The party now plans to up the ante on this issue on the lines of AIIMS in Jammu.
(Contributed by Anshu Seth, Manpreet Randhawa, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Vishal Joshi, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)