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HT Regional Buzz: Khanna in limbo and Sukhbir’s midnight b’day greetings to his father

Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir

punjab Updated: Dec 12, 2016 14:57 IST
Hindustan Times
The delay has become a talking point in party circles with no one having any idea about his future. Khanna has been a member of the Punjab assembly, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Punjab Human Rights Commission in the past.
The delay has become a talking point in party circles with no one having any idea about his future. Khanna has been a member of the Punjab assembly, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Punjab Human Rights Commission in the past.(Illustration by Daljeet Kaur Sandhu/HT)


BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna is unsure of his position these days. He had resigned from the party for the post of member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), but the Union home ministry is still to issue the notification regarding his appointment. The delay has become a talking point in party circles with no one having any idea about his future. Khanna has been a member of the Punjab assembly, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Punjab Human Rights Commission in the past.


It was the chief minister (CM) Parkash Singh Badal’s 90th birthday and most excited was his son, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. Just 15 minutes past midnight on December 8, Sukhbir tweeted a flurry of wishes to his father complete with a rather sweet black and white photograph of his with his dad in younger days. “My father is like a sentinel for me who has given me affection and passion for life. I am a proud son today and wish him the best of health and happiness on his birthday,” read two of his four tweets. During the ‘Pani Bachao, Punjab Bachao’ rally at Moga later in the day, he touched his father’s feet, but skipped wishing him a happy birthday, something every other speaker did. It was not just Sukhbir who sang paeans to his father that day. The CM was wished by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of Union ministers including Smriti Irani, Piyush Goel Suresh Prabhu and, of course, Harsimrat Kaur, the ‘Badal bahu’ in the Union government.


Demonetisation has hit jobs, but there is someone in Punjab who is hiring right now. A chief minister-level politician is looking for political operator/election campaign coordinator, campaign staffers, back office team, social media executive, IT engineer, video editor, graphic designer and telecallers. Besides “valuable experience”, a degree in political science or specialisation in management and information technology is what is needed to get hired, according to an advertisement issued on behalf of the “CM-level politician”. While the politician has not been named, all these positions are at Lehragaga from where former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is likely candidate of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has already named finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa as it nominee. When a reporter of this newspaper phoned up the number given in the advertisement, the person who answered the call said: “We can’t announce who the candidate is. Just send your biodata. We will do a scrutiny”. Despite the secrecy, no prizes for guessing who is hiring!


On the face of it, it is top leaders who seem to be calling the shots in ticket distribution for Punjab polls in the Congress, but behind the scenes the young team of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is also pulling the strings. Secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs, Harish Chaudhary, has done his own ground assessment on all 117 seats in Punjab and so has Krishna Allavaru, one of Rahul’s close aides. The youth brigade of MP Ravneet Bittu and MLAs such as CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Kuljit Nagra too are working as backroom advisers, especially for fielding youth candidates. Rahul’s office is clued in on all seats where “favouritism” is at play. The generational shift is coming in the grand-old party though the age for “youth” --- both for MLAs and candidates -- is relaxable up to even 50 years.



As several leaders have deserted the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) after being denied the party ticket, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was at a sangat darshan at Raikot, was asked about the brewing resentment. He retorted: “Jin ko main ticket de dun unke liye mein rab, jin ko na dun unke liye thug (I am god for those who are given tickets and a thug for those who are denied)”. When he made the remark, Badal was only quoting Akali stalwart and former president of the SAD late Sant Fateh Singh.


Vijay Sampla and (right) Kamal Sharma
Vijay Sampla and (right) Kamal Sharma ( HT Photo )

As the Punjab BJP is preparing to send names of candidates for the assembly polls, it is a role reversal for party leaders Vijay Sampla and Kamal Sharma. When he was the state unit president, Sharma had not sent Sampla’s name for the Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat, recommending Som Parkash. But the BJP leadership picked Sampla who then went on to win the seat. Now, Sharma is eyeing the party ticket from Ferozepur and needs a recommendation from Sampla. Former MLA Sukhpal Singh Nannu is also a contender from the constituency. Sampla, as one of his close aides revealed, is in no mood for revenge. “He plans to recommend both Sharma and Nannu,” he said.


Ramdev and (right) Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar
Ramdev and (right) Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ( HT Photo )

The BJP government in Haryana went all-out to take the Gita Jayanti Mahotsav at Kurukshetra to the next level. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar kept shuttling between Chandigarh and Kurukshetra to attend almost every event, small or big, during the weeklong celebrations. The biggest event was the Sant Sammelan held at the Brahma Sarovar at which religious gurus across the country and governors of three states were present. While religious gurus were given utmost importance, ministers such as Capt Abhimanyu and Ram Bilas Sharma got corner seats. During the sammelan, several of them hailed Khattar for the “unprecedented arrangements” made by his government to promote Bhagavad Gita internationally. Yoga guru Ramdev even called him a mahatma (saint). “Yeh dono Mahatma-type neta hain. Hamare chief minister sahib toh hai hi Baba ji, par Suresh Prabhu ji bhi Mahatma-type leader hain,” Ramdev said in his opening speech at the gathering, praising both Khattar and Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu.


Congress MLA Karan Dalal recently lambasted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for demonetisation, calling it a “ghatak” (dangerous) party that neither bothered for public nor its own people. Dalal said he knew Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the BJP party general secretary in-charge of Haryana in 1999 and had got him to join the party after the then Bansi Lal government fell. Dalal had quit the Haryana Vikas Party to join the BJP after he, along with some other MLAs, had brought down the state government. “I left the party within two months, realising that it was a dangerous party which cared for none,’’ he said.


Former Union minister Pawan Bansal was in Shimla recently to explain the maths of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move. The Congress leader lashed out at the government decision to scrap high-value banknotes, saying that cash crunch had caused pain to common people. But he wasn’t fully prepared for media queries. Bansal struggled to answer a volley of questions thrown at him by reporters. “How many Congress leaders stood in bank queues to withdraw money?” an enthusiastic journo asked the former minister who didn’t have a convincing response.


In Himachal Pradesh, cap’s colour denotes political affiliation. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his supporters usually wear caps with green band, while former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and his loyalists prefer maroon band topis. The other day, former MLA Tejwant Negi confused everyone during Dhumal’s trip to Kinnaur. Tejwant presented green caps to Dhumal and Shimla legislator Suresh Bhardwaj, but he himself wore one with a maroon band. Of late, Virbhadra son Vikramaditya have also started wearing a maroon band cap.

(Contributed by Chitleen K Sethi, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Aneesha Sareen Kumar, Neeraj Mohan, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht)

First Published: Dec 12, 2016 13:30 IST

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