Punjab chief parliamentary secretary Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of former-cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, has a grouse with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. “Because of Bapu Badal (Parkash Singh Badal), I cannot talk to my husband frequently. Our telephones are tapped at his behest,” she said. Her frequent outbursts against the Badals have often put the top functionaries of the state government in an embarrassing position. The CM had to tell her to stop talking in this manner but his advice does not seem to have had much effect on her.
VIPs and logjams
Traffic snarls due to the frequent visits of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and other VIPs to Ludhiana have been causing inconvenience to people. When the deputy CM visited Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar’s house recently for a function, it led to traffic diversion on four roads leading to Model Town Extension, the locality where Makkar lives. Hundreds of cops turned the entire area in to a “fortress”, not allowing anyone to drive through the nearby lanes and roads. People had to wait for four hours to pay obeisance at two famous gurdwaras and a temple adjacent to Makkar’s house, as no one was allowed to enter the locality as long as the deputy CM was there.
Shiromani Akali Dal president and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal’s speeches at Sadbhawna rallies, raking “nationalist” agenda, may not have go down well with the radicals, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the SAD’s alliance partner, is amused certainly. “Our purpose is achieved. The Akali party has always been on the fringe, but has changed its ways now. They are saying what we have been preaching for so many years,” said a Punjab BJP leader. Mission accomplished, shall we say?
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who got more brickbats than bouquets for his performance in first year, appears to be changing tack. After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers complained about bureaucracy’s running the show, the CM, in an uncharacteristic response, told them at a feedback session in Faridabad on Thursday that he had set one or two officers right and would tackle the rest in the coming days. The next day also, he did some plain talk with top bureaucrats at a meeting in Chandigarh. “Asking the officers to pull their socks up, the CM said the people are clear about the government’s intent but are not getting the same impression from the working of a section of the bureaucracy,” said an officer. The apparent aim was to give a message that he was in control. Khattar, according to another bureaucrat, would have to back his words with action, if he wants to have some effect on the administration. Actions, they say, speak louder than words — a cliché, but it’s still very much applicable.
Brief the RSS
That Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), widely seen as “ideological parent” of the saffron party, has considerable say in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana is well known. The CM and the ministers brief the RSS top brass regularly and several non-officials appointed in the government also have association with the organisation. But some state bureaucrats were surprised when they saw four-five “unfamiliar faces” at an official meeting recently to discuss the investment meet, Happening Haryana, that the Khattar government plans next year. “The non-official participants, whose RSS and BJP connections were obvious, discussed the event details, spoke authoritatively and contributed some ideas. Such things usually do not happen,” said a bureaucrat. While the mandarins didn’t know how to react, the presence of non-officials in the meeting became a talking point in the top echelons of bureaucracy in the state.
Chairing a meeting of administrative secretaries in Chandigarh, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar decided to test the resolve of his officers on corruption. While the meeting was on the launch of CM’s e-dashboard to monitor the government’s online services, he reminded the officers about a communication sent by the chief secretary 11 months ago regarding a list of officials facing corruption charges. The CM said he would appreciate if the same was expedited or the officials themselves gave out information “voluntarily”. “The CM’s strange voluntary disclosure scheme” is how it was viewed in the corridors of power.
Passed by the Haryana Vidhan Sabha last week, the obituary resolution on the demise of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal was punctuated with grammatical mistakes. It read: “This House places on record its deep sense of sorrow on the sad demise of Ashok Singhal… He was associated with Rastriya Sawyam Sewak Sangh (sic) from his student life… they (sic) become (sic) joint general secretary of Vishav Hindu Parishad (sic) in 1980 and general secretary in 1984… They (sic) remained international executive president of VHP upto more than 20 yeares (sic)… They were proficient in Hindustani music… the nation has deprived off (sic) the services of a combative (sic) organiser due to his sad demise. This House express (sic) its sentiment…”
MP’s old fear
Rohtak’s Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, son of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has completed 10 years in the Lok Sabha, but he is still not at ease while facing the media. At a press conference in his hometown, Deepender came with several sitting and former MLAs and Virender, his father’s political adviser from the previous Congress rule. When the MP was asked tough questions, they kept interjecting with Meham legislator Anand Singh Dangi, responding to a query with a counter-question at one stage. The MP’s unusually long answers also didn’t go down well with reporters. Recounting the achievements of his father’s previous government, he said: “Jab se Haryana bana, 40 saal me state ko sirf ek rail line mili par ham 10 saal me mein bohat se project laye (In the past 40 year, Haryana had got only one railway line, but we brought a lot of projects in 10 years).” Asked whether he was accusing the successive Congress governments at the Centre of being biased against the state, he failed to give a reply.
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh always heaps praise on BJP veteran leader and former CM Shanta Kumar. Shanta also returned the compliments, though in a subtle manner, on the eve of a public meeting held by the saffron party at Zorawar Stadium in Dharamsala. The rally was led by union health minister JP Nadda and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. Shanta expressed his inability to attend the rally because of health reasons. He then issued a press statement in which he sought Virbhadra’s resignation, but, at the same time, praised him for his contribution to the development of the state.
During the five-day winter session of the Himachal Pradesh assembly, several opposition legislators had one common complaint. They told speaker BBL Butail that whenever they stood up to speak, their microphones were turned off deliberately. Solan MLA Rajeev Bindal was the most vocal on this issue. The speaker once responded to his complaint by saying that the microphones were turned off because the members were speaking unnecessarily without the permission of the chair. “See, my microphone is never turned off,” he said. Bindal was also ready with his reply: “You are the speaker. Who can dare turn you off?”
‘Desire’ and ‘greed’
The Himachal Pradesh leaders rarely let go of an opportunity to take a dig at each other. Before the start of the assembly proceedings on the third day of the winter session, Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) president Maheshwar Singh was on the seat allocated to forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri and talking to another minister, Sujan Singh Pathania, when BJP legislator Rikhi Ram Kaundal teased him. “Your desire of becoming a minister was never fulfilled. Seems you are taking a feel by sitting there,” he quipped. While there were chuckles from different sides, the HLP chief gave a rather philosophical response: “You, too, had many desires like others. But one should have desires, not greed.”
Yoga guru Ramdev was the target of the ruling Congress legislators during a debate in the Himachal Pradesh assembly on soaring prices in the country. Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari, who initiated the debate, said Ramdev, instead of teaching yoga, had aligned himself with the BJP government and come down to selling pulses and other grocery items. The yoga guru, she said, was also in the business of beauty products. “I have cautioned the young girls in my constituency not to use his products. Lest the products gave them a face like the manufacturer, it was better to stay away,” she said.
Minister at odds
Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu’s moves do not seem to be in line with chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s agenda of reconciliation between the two regions (Jammu and Kashmir) and alliance partners the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the PDP (People’s Democratic Party). The BJP ministers and legislators complained to the CM after the FM bypassed the power department, headed by deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, while issuing cheques to contractors. He had earlier imposed service tax on helicopter services at the Vaishno Devi shrine and refused to withdraw it, despite appeals by the saffron party. The BJP leaders feel Drabu is undermining their party and going against the coalition dharma. The FM has also had issues with his party’s public distribution minister over the National Food Security Act. The CM, perhaps disturbed by it, announced major policy decisions of the cabinet at a press conference in his finance minister’s absence. Since the decisions involved his ministry, Drabu, later, called a separate press meeting.
(Contributed by Anshu Seth, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)