Dullo gets lucky and how!
Among one of his major achievements as Punjab Congress chief was installing busts of former Congress prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, all killed by terrorists, outside the Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh. No wonder, Shamsher Singh Dullo was fast and furious when the busts were shifted to the lawns inside when Captain Amarinder Singh took over as state party chief. While Amarinder’s office gave reasons ranging from ensuring respect of slain leaders to aesthetics, the move was prompted by “astrological” advice that it could even bolster the party’s poll fortunes after two successive defeats. While polls are still a long way to go, it’s Dullo whose fortunes seem to have changed after a long spell of political wilderness. After being nominated to the Rajya Sabha, Dullo rushed to the Congress Bhawan for paying his respects to the leaders. His pictures near the busts of the slain leaders have many in the party quipping on how Dullo did get lucky after all, thanks to shifting of the busts.
Playing musical chairs
Musical chairs! Punjab’s power couples love to play the game when it comes to seats in the state assembly and Parliament. When Captain Amarinder Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Amritsar, his wife Preneet Kaur, lost from Patiala. Now, she is Patiala legislator after winning the bypoll after the seat was vacated by her husband. His predecessor, Partap Singh Bajwa, was planning to do ditto. Bajwa ensured his wife Charanjit won his home seat Qadian after he won the Lok Sabha elections from Gurdaspur. Before losing his seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to Mr and Mrs Khanna — Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna’s wife Kavita Khanna made more news than him — Bajwa had declared to contest from seat of Mrs Bajwa in the 2017 assembly polls. But his sacrifice of giving up state Congress presidency won him a Rajya Sabha nomination. Will it be musical chairs again! It depends on whether it is “Main aur (and) Mrs Bajwa, or Main or Mrs Bajwa” in Punjab politics.
Learning the ropes
Newly appointed leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in the Punjab assembly Charanjit Singh Channi is trying to learn the ropes. Talking to reporters after the CLP meeting the other day, Channi repeatedly turned to his party colleagues to ask: “Oye, daso daso hunn ke kariye (Tell me what to do now).” He kept getting stuck and sought their help to respond to queries. While Channi’s colleagues often help him out by giving suggestions, they make his fun behind his back.
No support for Tota
Talking about the SAD-BJP government’s performance during a debate on the governor’s address in the Punjab assembly, Congress MLA from Dera Baba Nanak Sukhjinder Randhawa said: “Chitti makhi narma kha gayi... kisani Tota kha gaya... hunn kisan ki karey” (Whitefly has eaten up cotton crop......agriculture minister Tota (Singh) has eaten up the entire agriculture.....what should the farmers do now). There was silence in the House as none from the ruling alliance objected to the remark. The minister also kept sitting with his head down.
Nagra’s advice to colleague
During the state assembly session, Congress MLA from Nawanshahr Guriqbal Kaur was rebuked by her colleague, Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra, who asked her not to make “loose remarks” before the media. Nagra heard Guriqbal griping against her two colleagues — Charanjit Kaur Bajwa and Karan Kaur Brar — before the reporters after the two MLAs casually asked her why she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi when she was attending a conference recently. Guriqbal informed the media about questioning by the two. “Madam, such things are not spoken in front of the media because non-issues become issues. There is nothing off the record, every word once uttered has an effect,” was the advice from Nagra.
Stale ideas for shaping budget
Following in the footsteps of the Modi government at the Centre, the BJP government in Haryana also asked citizens to send in their ideas for the state budget. But the state government, which sought “innovative and doable” ideas to raise the state’s revenue, had not imagined that its initiative would not yield results. And that too when the finance department had announced `1-lakh prize for the best idea. The last date for sending ideas was March 4 and the department hoped to incorporate the “chosen suggestions” in its budgetary proposals for the coming year. The 30-odd ideas the finance department received are said to be run-of-the-mill type, said a senior official. The suggestions, he said, are either already in practice or not doable. The department has now decided to wait. No prizes for guessing for how long.
Marathon budget speech
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh created a record of sorts this budget session. The CM, who also holds the finance portfolio, presented his 19th budget besides delivering the longest-ever speech of around three-and-a-half hours in the state assembly. Virbhadra’s speech had 13 Urdu couplets – most of them aimed at the previous BJP government. In between the speech, the CM also took a dig at the restive BJP legislators for not remaining quiet. “At 80, I am not getting tired despite standing for so long, but you cannot even sit properly,” he told them. His archrival, former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, also used sarcasm to criticise the budgetary proposals. “The budget speech is too exhaustive. The officials have drafted the speech in such a manner so that that the CM does not understand the context,” he said.
Placating Opposition MLAs
Himachal forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri has been in the line of fire of the Opposition MLAs. But he has found a way to keep the tormenters quiet. Bharmouri has started to show extra respect to leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal, referring to him often as “pujniye” (respectable) in the House. And, this has helped him deflect the BJP’s attack.
Caught in vanity numbers
Himachal transport minister GS Bali was caught in a piquant situation when MLAs of his own party questioned the transport department’s system of allocating single-digit vehicle registration numbers. When Congress legislator Rakesh Kalia made a reference to single-digit numbers on ministers’ vehicles, Bali got annoyed and asked former to give information on VIP numbers. “If my vehicle has a single-digit number, I am willing to surrender it to facilitate them,” Bali said.
PDP-BJP MLAs worried
The eviction notices served on former ministers of the PDP-BJP government have added to worries of legislators of the two parties who say this could be a precursor to dissolution of the state assembly. The notices were served almost two months after the state came under the governor’s rule. Several former ministers, who were entitled to retain their bungalows for one month after the government ceases to exist, say the administration’s decision to issue notices was taken in haste. Others see it as a signal by the centre – the governor reports to the Union government – that if things don’t move, dissolution could be also on the cards. Dissolution is the last thing the two parties want. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has to take a final call on government formation. While she wants a few assurances, the central government wants her to agree on becoming the chief minister.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay)