Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh had to hit the ground running to outdo Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal who is making whirlwind tours of Punjab every month. Just when the former Patiala royal decided to rest a while, Kejriwal made headlines with his five-day visit to Punjab forcing him to issue statements each day to get media space. Used to more relaxed style of campaigning, the real challenge for Amarinder will be to keep pace with Kejriwal’s hit-and-run trips. The Punjab Congress chief has now announced a march along SYL Canal on the water-sharing issue. Earlier, it was his bête noire Partap Singh Bajwa, as state party chief, who had forced Amarinder to face the heat and dust of Punjab and now it is Kejriwal. The good old days of royalty are over!
PK: Capt’s new muse, this side of border
For once, no one is complaining about cross-border references in Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh’s list of friends. His new muse — PK — is no Pakistani friend but poll strategist Prashant Kishor who now enjoys Amarinder’s hospitality at his residence in Chandigarh during his Punjab visits. Interestingly, PK enjoys as much media attention as Amarinder’s Pakistani friends, and his visits, too, are kept secret to keep media at bay. So, the only news is Prashant came and Prashant gone. Unlike the PK in the movie by the same name, he talks little and likes to hog limelight after the results are out.
Falling on hard times
It seems times are not too good for media advisers. A former media adviser with the Congress government got a thorough dressing down from his boss — a former chief minister — for trying to be seen too much with him. The former media adviser, who is not very popular, was apparently trying to get clicked with him. When the former CM had had enough, he chose a good occasion and told him not to be around him all the time.
Progressive farmers’ disappointed
Union minister for food processing Harsimrat Badal left a group of progressive farmers from her home state dejected the other day. Denied the solar unit projects after being awarded tenders by the Punjab government, they travelled to Delhi to meet the minister, hoping that she would talk to her brother, Punjab renewable energy minister Bikram Majithia, and resolve the issue. But their hopes were dashed when the minister did not meet them even though they had been issued entry passes and ushered to the minister’s office. The scenario, according to them, changed after one of them scribbled in the visitors’ register that they belong to the Solar Energy Farmers’ Association. “She perhaps knew the problem, but could not help us,” they said.
Alternative profession for journalists
Punjab journalists have got an alternative profession — politics. The Aam Aadmi Party is attracting journalists in hordes, the most recent being Chander Suta Dogra. The switch from journalism to politics appears to have led a few others to wonder if they too should take the plunge. The Akalis seem all too ready. In a recent press conference, when a journalist complained to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal that the Hindi press notes of his government were not well written, his instant response was: “The post of the media adviser to handle Hindi journalists was open. Anybody could apply.”
Investing in ideas
Calling it “Jan Bhagidari” (people’s participation), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Haryana is making efforts to find ways to “reach out” to the people. After the Centre asked citizens to send in their ideas and proposals for the Union Budget, the BJP government in the state also invited people to give “innovative and doable” ideas to “raise Haryana’s revenue” for the state budget. The finance department asked residents to post their suggestions on its website by Friday (March 4), offering a prize of Rs 1 lakh for the best idea. While Union finance minister Arun Jaitley reflected 10 suggestions from citizens in his budgetary proposals for 2016-17, the number and nature of “doable” ideas incorporated by Haryana finance minister Capt Abhimanyu in his budget for the state would only be known when he presents his second budget speech later this month. Investing in ideas, are they?
Anti-corruption plan fails to take off
Governments like to form strategies, but putting them into practice is the hard part. The BJP had last year come up with a nine-point strategy to root out corruption from Haryana administration. Chief secretary DS Dhesi sent out detailed instructions to all departments once again a few weeks ago, asking officials to list five “points and places” where corrupt practices are prevalent. The heads of departments were advised to keep a “discreet and unobtrusive watch” and carry out surprise checks. But the response was lukewarm. The officials had to issue reminders to subordinates to identify such areas and places. The strategy, which marked a shift from “punitive approach” to a “participatory strategy”, has not started delivering.
Ministers shy away from donating blood
The first time the Haryana government held a “Sadbhavana Week’’ for social harmony post caste-conflict during the Jat agitation. A “Sadhbhavna raktdaan shivir’’ (blood donation camp) was organised at Chandigarh in which ministers, MLAs, senior officials and employees were to donate blood to spread the message of amity and brotherhood. The camp became a talking point in the corridors of power, not because of the message of social harmony, but who all were in the list of blood donors. Capt Abhimanyu was the only minister, whereas director general of police Yash Pal Singal and additional chief secretary Rajni Sekhri Sibal were among the officials who donated blood. As for some senior ministers, they were advised by doctors not to donate blood due to their age. A few others had health issues.
Officials left red-faced
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh is not known to mince his words. The CM, while speaking on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address, took a jibe at his officials for mentioning former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as “unhoney” (him) in the text he read out in the state assembly. “Instead of calling him Dhumal Ji, I will only address him as unhoney from now,” the chief minister said, leaving the officials red-faced.
Politically affiliated simians!
Marauding monkeys forcing the farmers to abandon agriculture is a subject debated hotly in every session of the state assembly in Himachal Pradesh. But Dharampur MLA Mahinder Singh Thakur added a political twist when the issue came up in the House this time. Thakur accused the forest department of translocating monkeys in constituencies represented by MLAs belonging to the BJP. Before anyone else could respond, assembly speaker Brij Bihari Butail asked Thakur whether the monkeys in Himachal have political affiliations.
Request for free T20 passes
The India-Pakistan World T20 match, slated for March 19 at Dharamshala, is facing strong opposition with a series of protests from different groups. The Congress, especially some of its ministers in the state cabinet, also jumped in to oppose the match. But the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), the host organisation, hit back saying one of the ministers, who was vehemently opposing the match, has sent them a request for 50 free passes for the match expected to be a high-voltage clash between the two traditional rivals. The association bosses have not named the minister, perhaps keeping it as a “sure-fire weapon” in their arsenal and waiting for the right time.
The balancing act
Himachal BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, who is usually calm and composed, tries to maintain a balance in the faction-ridden party. During his visit to Dharamshala the other day, he faced some questions on internal squabbling in the party, particularly Kangra MP Shanta Kumar’s utterances and the manner in which Dehra MLA Ravinder Singh Ravi took him on in public. But Satti deftly parried the questions. “Ravi’s tongue might have slipped and Shanta Kumar is a veteran leader. Everyone in the party has respect for him,” is all he had to say.
Lawmakers turn lawbreakers
They are lawmakers, but upset when asked to follow the rules. Himachal BJP legislator Hansraj seemed upset the other day over the treatment meted out to MLAs by the police while refusing to let them park their vehicles on the roadside. He made no effort to hide his feeling. “They have restricted the movement of MLAs as if they are prisoners,” he said. Hansraj was not the only one. Former panchayati raj minister Jai Ram Thakur also said that a woman cop insulted him and his family members for parking their vehicle on a sealed road. Law unto themselves!
Frustration in PDP cadre
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti’s reluctance to form the government with the BJP is slowly adding to the “frustration” of the party cadre. And, it came out in the open at a party function in Jammu on Friday. A very senior party leader, who was close to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, said the confusion over government formation needs to be cleared. It’s only after his comment that Mehbooba dropped hints about her “conditions” for the government formation. The party workers are feeling frustrated because they had waited for nine years for their government and it lasted less than a year. As not much work has been done, they have little to show if the elections are held again. PDP leaders in Jammu feel the party may have some chance of holding its ground in the Valley, but by “ditching” the BJP, it may lose whatever support it had gained in their area.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Chitleen K Sethi, Prabhjit Singh, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)