Just a tag cannot make flamboyant Punjab Congress leaders “Aam Aadmi”. So the wedding reception of the daughter of Congress-turned-AAP-leader Sukhpal Khaira was all pomp and show; and present at the New Delhi five-star hotel venue were many “aam aadmis”, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers. Since Khaira’s daughter has married into a dyed-in-the-wool Congress family of former Punjab chief minister Darbara Singh, the handshake between Kejriwal and senior Congress leader Jagmeet Brar, whose daughter is married to the groom’s elder brother, made it to newspapers. A fuming Brar took to the social media to deny he was embracing the AAP; but in politics, it is difficult to say who gained from the “news”. As for Kejriwal, on a Saturday television show, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh has offered to supply him with better clothes, shoes and muffler. “He doesn’t have to wear those clothes and cough to show he is aam aadmi. I’m sure he has enough money to dress up properly; if not, I will send him some clothes,” he said. The mufflerman is yet to respond to the offer, though.
Keeping a secret
The tenure of former Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa saw him and incumbent chief Captain Amarinder Singh planting spies in each other’s camps during their bitter war of succession. After Amarinder dethroned Bajwa, the two are rewarding these agents for the “loyalty” shown in difficult times. Still baffled who’s leaking its hard-kept secrets to the media, the Amarinder camp intends to keep his and his poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s working a closely-guarded secret. With Amarinder having his say on all matters, the other senior party leaders cannot complain, and none is striking a jarring note openly. After all, in victory, there may be gains for all but there’s none in a third consecutive defeat.
With RSS blessing
With a one-time pracharak (proponent) at the helm, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) appears to be observing the working of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana closely. While most non-official aides of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar owe allegiance to the saffron party’s ideological mentor, there is growing feeling among bureaucrats also that the way to a coveted post is through the RSS. When an excise and taxation officer (ETO) was transferred from Gurgaon to Chandigarh and posted in the office of principal secretary to the chief minister (PSCM) last week, the corridors of power were abuzz with talk that the shifting was with the blessings of some top RSS functionaries. RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar and BJP national vice-president Shyam Jaju, who were at Panjab University, Chandigarh, for a seminar on national security, also met some “trusted” officers on Wednesday to collect feedback on the state government’s working. And, not all of it was complimentary.
The refusal of singer Rocky Mittal, a self-proclaimed “Narendra Modi Bhakt”, to accept the post of chief adviser of Haryana Kala Parishad on Thursday left the political bosses red-faced last week. After his outburst, the government swung into damage-control modes, with two aides of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ringing up Rocky, who feels that the assignment wasn’t a fair compensation for the hard work he had put in for Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. They tried to convince him about the importance of the post he had been given but it did not work. “I asked them whose adviser I had been appointed — the CM, minister or the arts council director? Or was I an independent adviser? They had no answer,” he says. His gripe is that he was given an insulting post, whereas, several turncoats and others who did no work at all for the party have landed plum positions. Taken aback by what they call “a needless controversy”, the state authorities are hoping that he changes his mind.
You said it again
Few can match Haryana BJP leaders in making cutting remarks, but the words land them in trouble at times. Jawahar Yadav, a former aide of CM ML Khattar, posted a tweet from his handle @jawaharyadavbjp on the protests at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University: “For the JNU girls raising anti-national slogans, I’d only say that tawaifs are better, as they only sell their bodies, not their country.” He soon realized his mistake and said he was withdrawing the tweet. “I have not compared any girl student with tawaif. All I said was that those who take up prostitution due to some compulsion are better than those raising anti-national slogans such as Pakistan Zindabad,’’ he tweeted again. In contrast, health minister Anil Vij continued successfully with his tongue lashing of the Congress. “For the Congress,” he commented at Ambala: “G is for gadha (donkey), while for BJP, it stands for the Gita, gai (cow), and Ganga.”
Will work for Rs 1
Aditya Devi Lal, grandson of former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, made his mark last week after becoming member of the Sirsa Zila Parishad by defeating his bhabhi (sister-in-law), Kanta Chautala, wife of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala. The first thing he did after taking oath was to write to the panchayat department that he would take only Rs 1 as honorarium and not regular Rs 3,000 per month and other allowances, saying that the money be used for the welfare of farmers. He also said if other representatives also made this gesture, it could help in the development of many areas. Aditya is son of Jagdish Chander, youngest of Devi Lal’s four sons, who lived as a farmer and did not enter politics.
The BJP legislators, who have their government in Haryana for the first time, are keen to push the requests of their supporters. While most MLAs keep knocking on the doors of ministers and bureaucrats to push for transfers and plum postings, a first-time legislator of the ruling party, who won from a Congress stronghold, was in the civil secretariat with requests of his followers for transfer, promotion, leniency in departmental action, and extension of the gun license validity area to other states. “I have been getting dozens of requests every week from the time I got elected and cannot ignore them because those people backed me,” he said, sharing his predicament with a bureaucrat. The real problem, according to him, occurs when the officers decline to entertain the MLA’s requests but the supporters get the work done by greasing palms or employing own contacts. “It becomes embarrassing then,” he added.
The information and public relations department of the Haryana government has a big team comprising media advisers, PROs and APROs, but it is probably not enough. The teachers of various universities are being asked to draft speeches for some VIPs. A university professor was directed by a member of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s team recently to write his speech for a function in a southern district on priority. The professor, according to sources, had to leave his class to prepare the speech. “It reminded me of a scene from 3 Idiots (a Hindi film), in which college librarian Dubeyji ghostwrites a speech in pure Hindi. We are now like Dubeyji. Shabd hamare hain bol woh rahe hain (our words, there speech),” he said, talking about his experience.
Split on campus
Himachal Pradesh Congress MP Viplove Thakur has created a political storm by opposing CM Virbhadra Singh’s announcement for a consolidated central university campus at Dharamsala. Viplove, who represented Jaswan Paragpur in the state assembly earlier, favours a split campus of the university at Dehra. Her opposition has angered the CM and his son. While Virbhadra described her as a “selfish leader”, his son, Vikramaditya, president of Himachal Youth Congress, demanded disciplinary action. The CM’s supporters were also quick to take to social-networking websites to condemn Viplove for supporting campus in Dehra, claiming that she had constructed a new house recently at Rakkar in Dharamsala.
No permanent foes
There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. Himachal Lokhit Party president and Kullu legislator Maheshwar Singh and BJP’s state unit president Satpal Singh Satti, who is MLA from Una, were seen bonding well recently. While Maheshwar had quit the BJP before the 2012 assembly polls to float his own outfit, Satti and his colleagues often teased him for siding with the Congress. The two leaders travelled together to different parts of the country as members of an assembly committee. They were not only allotted rooms on the top floor of Himachal Bhawan, state guest house in Delhi, but also were spotted dining together.
‘Hydrophobia’ in HP
The outbreak of jaundice has spread panic among the bureaucrats in Himachal Pradesh. Additional chief secretary (public works) Narender Chauhan is the latest IAS officer to be diagnosed with the water-borne disease. The bureaucrats have given instructions to members of their staff not to offer water to guests and other visitors to their offices. Those who used to order food from the secretariat canteen have now started bringing it from home. Dalhousie legislator Asha Kumari, who was in secretariat for a meeting the other day, also did not visit any office, saying the drinking water there could be contaminated.
The ‘NDA’ was the acronym for a powerful clique of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ministers when late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was at the helm. The trio of Nayeem Akhtar (N), Haseeb Drabu (D) and Altaf Bukhari (A)used to call the shots. However, after Mufti’s demise and during the prolonged political stalemate, Drabu has been missing from the political deliberations. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has authorised only Nayeem to address the media, while Altaf Bukhari holds back-channel deliberations with the BJP. Having been sidelined, Drabu, one of the interlocutors of the BJP-PDP alliance, is reported to be sulking for having missed an important assignment at Asian Development Bank for the post of finance minister that he held for just 10 months. The big question is whether he will return as FM in case the party forms the government again.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Navneet Sharma, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay)