Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh has been camping in Delhi for a week. He first went to Srikalahasti temple and Venkateswara temple in Andhra Pradesh. Virbhadra was accompanied by wife Pratibha Singh and son Vikramaditya Singh. CM’s officer on special duty (OSD) Amita Pal Singh also accompanied the family. The state public relations department released photographs of their private visit to the famous temples. The pictures took everyone by surprise as they showed Vikramaditya and Amita with their heads tonsured. The family’s visit to famous Srikalahasti temple, known for warding off “kalsarp yog”, came at a time when the opposition parties have escalated their attack on Virbhadra over his corruption cases.
Games babus play
Bureaucratic intrigues in Punjab could put Mughal court politics to shame. In a bid to topple chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and replace him with about-to-retire IAS officer Suresh Kumar, an officer in the chief minister’s office (CMO) is working overtime. Clandestine meetings with the chief minister followed by talk of Kaushal going on long leave have kept the rumour mill churning. Everyone is watching the goings-on with excitement. What happens next will be clear only this week. For the time being, all three -the officer in the CMO, Kaushal and Kumar – deny any such thing.
Bringing family together
Guess who is missing his extended family the most these days? It’s Arjun, the son of People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) chief Manpreet Badal, who, it is learnt, wants the family to be together once again. He misses his grandfather the most, and understandably so. After all, Manpreet and his son held a special place in chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s heart. The chief minister’s office (CMO), and some say even the deputy CMO, is abuzz with the phone calls Arjun made trying to get everyone back as a family. Great going, kid!
Food for thought
The Punjab IAS Officers’ Association election dinner turned out to be quite a “spirited affair” keeping in tune with the celebratory Christmas and New Year mood. Some officers were so happy by the end of the dinner that they had to be packed into their vehicles with the help of other officers. Others, of course, found it pinching that they had to pay Rs 800 (yes, imagine bureaucrats paying for anything) for the feast. Not fair. Some even refused, lest their reputation be harmed.
Pompous birthday celebrations
Birthday celebrations appear to have become a fad in bureaucratic circles with subordinates and others going out of their way to appease the boss. Such celebrations are no more restricted to distribution of sweets or an act of charity, but a pompous affair. At the recent birthday celebration of chief sanitary inspector Laxman Dravid, also the leader of sanitation workers, in Ludhiana, a large group of sanitary workers organised a cake-cutting ceremony. More interesting was a “DJ party” held by his supporters and attended by some senior PCS officers.
Badal and his jibes
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is known for his jibes that can cause embarrassment not only to his political opponents, but also to his own party colleagues. During the CM’s recent rallies in Tarn Taran district, chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Virsa Singh Valtoha was the target of his light-hearted digs. At one such rally, Badal, while speaking about Punjab becoming power surplus, advised people to pay their bills and not steal power. “I know some of you use kundi connections to steal electricity because you know Virsa will come to your help if you get caught,” he said, turning to the embarrassed CPS. At another public meeting in which the CPS was conducting the proceedings, the CM commented on his enthusiasm in asking the crowd to shout slogans. “Virsa, control yourself. You have a stent in your heart. If something happens to you, your wife would blame us,” Badal said in his opening remarks.
Taking digs, Hooda style
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda of late has been taking digs at the popularity of his rivals. In Chandigarh the other day, he scoffed at the attendance at rallies held by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Hooda, whose party was third in the 2014 state assembly polls, said he had noticed in the visuals that a large number of chairs remained unoccupied at these rallies. “If BJP leaders are so fond of addressing empty tables and chairs, they should not waste money on holding rallies. They should go to the tent houses and address the tables and chairs there instead,” he said. He also mimicked: “Mej bhaiyo, kursi behno (Table brothers and chair sisters).” The former CM also flung a barb at health minister Anil Vij, who, in a tweet about top Congress leaders facing allegations, had said, “Bakre ki maa akhir kab tak khair manayegi (for how long can a goat avoid getting butchered).” “I think Vij had this thought for himself while looking in the mirror,” the former chief minister said.
All in the family
Haryana BJP vice-president Rajiv Jain, husband of women and child development minister Kavita Jain, had to face embarrassment the other day for enjoying power and privileges of his minister wife. During his recent visit to Jind, the BJP leader was asked by reporters why he was using his wife’s official vehicle sporting a beacon atop. Jain said that being a family member of the minister, he is authorised to use the extra vehicle allotted to her. He accompanies his wife to almost all official functions in Sonepat. And, the media consultant appointed for the minister also works for his publicity. Jain also issues statements on her behalf.
Bali takes the credit
The code of conduct in force in Himachal Pradesh for the ongoing panchayat polls may have thwarted the Congress government’s plan to celebrate its three years in power, but flamboyant minister GS Bali knows how to take credit even in such situations. Even as other party leaders refrained from issuing statements, Bali took the lead by holding a press conference and calling the Congress regime a “historic one”. He listed the achievements of only his departments -- transport, technical education and food and civil supplies -- though. Barely making any mention of achievements of the state government, Bali patted his own back.
Himachal Pradesh has seen record participation in the panchayat and civic elections. While over 44,000 candidates are in fray for different posts, all eyes are set on the polls for the zila parishad of Rella ward in Kullu district. Two princes of Kullu royal family – Himachal Lokhit Party president Maheshwar Singh’s son Hiteshwar Singh and ayurveda minister Karan Singh’s son Aditya Vikram Singh – are locked in a royal battle. While Maheshwar had floated his HLP before the state assembly elections, his younger brother Karan Singh had opted to join the Congress and got elected from the Banjar assembly constituency.
The RSS factor
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) connection is coming out strong, both in the BJP and its governance, in Jammu and Kashmir. BJP’s newly-elected state unit president and MLA Satpal Sharma is a former pracharak of the RSS. His Sangh connection is believed to have helped him get the top party post in the state where the BJP is in power for the first time. The deputy chief minister also comes from a family with strong Sangh leanings. The RSS ideology came out in the open when the opposition and separatists demanded disbanding of village defence committees (VDCs) following three murders in which their members were involved. Satpal said his first priority would be to strengthen VDCs. Now that’s a strong statement given the party’s alliance with Kashmircentric PDP. A votary of VDCs, the RSS has played a crucial role in strengthening them in the Muslimmajority areas of the Jammu region. The deputy CM, agreeing with the state unit chief, also completely ruled out any possibility of disbanding VDCs.
(Contributed by Chitleen K Sethi, Anshu Seth, Harkirat Singh, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)