Who would bat first, high command or Captain?
The Punjab Congress abounds in conspiracy theories and they are only getting murkier by the day. Different sections of loyalists of former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh are projecting contrasting theories — one claims Captain is leaving and would float his own party while the other contends he will lead the Congress during elections. The camp of his bete noire, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, would like us to believe that the party’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha has crossed the Lakshman Rekha by speaking against the party’s stand on various issues and vice-president Rahul Gandhi and has betrayed his ambition while opposing senior leader Ambika Soni as Bajwa’s replacement. So the party, they say, is waiting that the Captain make the first move to part ways. Amarinder, on the other hand, seems to be waiting for the party to first appoint a state chief before making his next move. Each would then get to tell the voters — the other ditched! Wait for who chooses to bat first on a political green top.
Back with a bang
After his transfer was stayed by the Punjab and Haryana high court, Punjab agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu reached his office at SAS Nagar last week and banged on the door, ordering the nameplate of his successor be removed forthwith. As a painter could not be found immediately, he ordered that a black tape be put on the nameplate. But Sandhu’s tantrums may not last long. Once considered close to CM Parkash Singh Badal, Sandhu seems to have fallen out of favour and it has been decided to fix him. The state government has moved the high court challenging the stay on his transfer. Sandhu was removed pending an inquiry into the sale of spurious pesticides to cotton growers leading to severe damage to the crop by the whitefly attack.
Punjab BJP on Bihar watch
While Punjab BJP leaders are making a beeline to the poll-bound Bihar to boost the party’s prospects, they are also nervously watching which way the wind blows in Bihar. The saffron party’s leaders in Punjab contend their stakes are high in Bihar elections and the outcome will determine the BJP’s game plan for Punjab, which will be among the next five states to go to polls after Bihar. Its ties with alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal are under strain and there are strong voices within the BJP to break free. Though top leaders of both the SAD and BJP claim that the things are fine, the honeymoon is all but over.
No toll tax on ‘VIP’ buses
Forget following traffic rules, buses owned by VVIPs in Punjab do not even have to shell out any toll tax. During the recently-concluded Chhapar Mela, the bus arranged by the office of Ludhiana district public relations office ferrying mediapersons to the venue was stopped at a toll tax barrier on the Ludhiana-Malerkotla road. The employee at the barrier was not ready to make an exemption when the DPRO officers said the bus was going for chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s rally till another one noticed the name of the bus company — Jhujhar — which is owned by Gurdeep Singh Jhujhar, a close associate of the ruling Badals. “Jao ji, eh ta Jhujhar bus hai jisnu koi nahi rok sakda (You are allowed to go, it is a Jhujhar Transport bus which no one can dare stop),” the employee said while allowing the bus to go without paying the toll tax.
Age no bar
Few would think of academics after cracking the prestigious civil services exam and serving as an IAS officer for 24 years. But it is never too late for some to take up a management course or study law. Haryana IAS officer AK Singh, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, not only appeared for the law entrance examination held by Panjab University but also topped the merit list. Now, Singh heads straight for his evening classes after his hectic job hours leaving his colleagues in Haryana bureaucracy marvelling at the feat.
No babus for khaki driveRaahgiri, an automobile-free initiative, has revealed the not-so-friendly ties between the civil and police administration in Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s home constituency, Karnal. Introduced by superintendent of police Pankaj Nain on August 30, the number of city residents participating in the street initiative is swelling every week. Even CM Khattar participated in the event but officials from the district administration are keeping themselves away from the Sunday event. Deputy commissioner J Ganesan and his colleagues, including SDM, CTM and others, have not been seen at the event, which remains a police show all the way.
Cong, BJP ‘book’Virbhadra show
The FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh followed by raids at his residence has engrossed leaders from not just the ruling Congress but also the opposition BJP. The CM challenged the CBI’s action and engaged senior Congress leader and eminent lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared before the high court’s division bench to argue against the CBI action. But to the dismay of mediapersons covering the court hearing, it was a full house with small-time leaders from the Congress and BJP reaching the courtroom well before the case hearing listed for 10 am and there were no chairs left for them. Virbhadra himself was not too far away and had reached Hotel Oberoi Clarkes, which is adjoining the high court, before the hearing started. After the hearing, it was time for lawyers associated with the two parties, who had arrived in large numbers, to discuss the case threadbare.
The vanishing act Through hectic political manoeuvring, Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh was able to cobble up a delegation of Congress ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries and MLAs to reach New Delhi to submit a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi “condemning raids on properties of the CM, including his private residence, Holly Lodge”. But the group led by health minister Kaul Singh Thakur played a spoilsport in the CM’s unity pitch as MLAs owing allegiance to Thakur were present only when the delegation submitted the memorandum to the President and AICC general secretary Ambika Soni but went missing when they were supposed to assemble at party president Sonia’s residence.
And the Delhi connection
Himachal health minister Kaul Singh Thakur is learnt to be cosying up to union rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, who not long ago was in the Congress overseeing Himachal elections what brought CM Virbhadra Singh to power. While the CM is busy fighting the BJP’s graft charges, Kaul Singh and his supporters have been paying frequent visits to Chaudhary’s Delhi residence. Kaul’s fondness for Birender has left sections in Himachal Congress wondering if the former is trying to give a message to the Congress high command by using the union minister’s influence to gain proximity to the BJP.
Dhumal junior’s Facebook bouncers
Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s younger son, Arun Dhumal, has been making news for bowling bouncers to chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Facebook. Arun’s remarks on social media have been causing a flutter. He recently rattled Virbhadra with his remarks after the CBI raids. It led to the CM cancelling his plans to attend the T20 match between India and South Africa at Dharamshala on October 2, for which Arun’s elder brother, Anurag Thakur, president of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association and BJP MP from Hamirpur, had extended the invite. Thakur, himself too, had ruffled Virbhadra’s feathers by later saying that the invite was for the CM and not Virbhadra. After the CM’s no, Arun again poked Virbhadra by extending the invitation again. He claims to have more disclosures up his sleeve that could rattle the Congress in Himachal. As he uses social network to poke political foes, there is no point unfriending him. They will still get to know what he writes through friends in the media.
Jammu vs Kashmir on beef ban
Conflicting orders from the Jammu and Srinagar benches of the high court seem to have come as a relief for the ruling BJP-PDP coalition in the state. The Mufti government was quick to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court for a uniform order after consultations with state and central BJP leadership at a time the issue could have rocked the J&K assembly session. Even before the opposition National Conference, which is asking that the provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) which make beef sale illegal, be repealed, could have put the government on the mat over the ban order, the coalition has found a counter — since the matter is sub-judice it can’t be debated in the Assembly. For now, all seems to be well within the alliance partners on the controversial issue and the two are not playing Jammu versus Kashmir.
Contributed by Gurpreet Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Anshu Seth, Hitender Rao, Vishal Joshi, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay