Regional buzz: AAP’s Shahkot campaign and Khaira’s guest appearance
From Cong, BJP in blame game over fuel hike to Harsmirat’s marketing mantra, here is all that made buzz:punjab Updated: May 28, 2018 13:05 IST
Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and J&K:
AAP’s Shahkot campaign: Khaira gives it a miss
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Khaira spends so much time assailing both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that you feel he will automatically lead the charge in any fight against them. But, when the principal opposition party, which has been rocked by internal bickering, jumped into the crucial Shahkot byelection fray, Khaira, who is also leader of the opposition in Punjab assembly, made more headlines due to his absence from the campaign than his belligerent speechmaking. While SAD president Sukhbir Badal maintained a punishing campaign schedule to try and retain the seat where the byelection has been necessitated by the death of party MLA Ajit Singh Kohar and the ruling Congress paraded most of its ministers, Khaira made just an occasional appearance. Instead of canvassing for party candidate Rattan Singh Kakkarkalan, he remained busy in petitioning the National Green Tribunal in Delhi on pollution in rivers, and indulging in a credit war. A drubbing in Shahkot will be a setback for the party!
Cong, BJP in blame game over fuel hike
Rising petrol and diesel prices have fuelled a fight between top leaders of the BJP and the Congress in Punjab where fuel prices are among the highest in the region. The Congress, which is in power in the state, called it the “parting gift” of the NDA government. “They have ruined the country’s economy and are now exacerbating the situation,” Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said after a symbolic ride on bullock cart last week to protest. Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik hit back at the Congress. “The state governments are not ready to bring petrol and diesel under the goods and services tax. If the Congress intends to lower fuel prices, it should have shown initiative,” he said. The BJP leader also released data showing how the Punjab government was recovering more VAT on fuel than the Centre was getting from central excise, thereby burdening the people more. Both parties are sparring even as surging fuel prices burn hole in pockets.
BJP slams brakes on Capt report cards
The state unit of the BJP has been releasing monthly report card of the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government from the time it took over in March 2017. The chain of monthly reports broke last week when party leaders withdrew the 14th monthly evaluation report after a press briefing. Party leader Vineet Joshi was playing a key role in report cards during Union minister of state Vijay Sampla’s stint as the state president. When Shwait Malik took charge of the state BJP, he stopped the practice. “The new president desired so. Therefore, we withdrew the report. We have no option,” said Joshi.
Of Sidhus, family love & Twitter
Local government minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his son, Karan, had some public display of affection on social media on Saturday. When Sidhu held a press conference to announce that his son and namesake wife, Navjot Kaur, will not accept positions of additional advocate general and chairperson of Punjab Warehousing Corporation, Karan gave thumbs up to Sidhu’s retweet of the news with series of commendations. Sidhu then tweeted “proud of you son”. His wife too posted her and son’s qualifications to proclaim they are not “undeserving”. It was time for some family bonding on Twitter!
Harsmirat’s marketing mantra for students
Union food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal recently asked youngsters to learn the art of marketing because it is the need of the hour and even political parties are focusing on it these days. The minister, accompanied by former Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, was speaking at a function held in Sunam on May 13 to inaugurate a Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra. She said that training for vocations such as home health aides, distributors, animal health workers, CCTV technicians and salesmen would be given free of cost. “You need to learn the art of selling things for better prospects in the marketing field. All political parties use marketing for propagating their policies and agenda,” Harsimrat told the newly enrolled youngsters. Well said! Political parties seem to have become brands and fast adapting to new age marketing with big spends to woo the commoners – the voters.
Phoolka takes a stand
AAP leader and senior advocate HS Phoolka, who quit as the leader of opposition in July last year, has been maintaining a rather low profile politically in recent months. Ask Phoolka about his absence from party meetings, events and other programmes in recent months and he says, “I am on leave from the party to concentrate on fighting the anti-Sikh riot cases”. But that doesn’t stop him from speaking his mind on political moves of the party leadership from time to time. AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal attended newly elected Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony in Bengaluru on Wednesday, leading to speculation about the party joining the anti-BJP coalition helmed by the Congress. “I will quit the party if it enters into coalition with the Congress. There can be no compromise in the 1984 riots cases,” he said, serving an early warning. Phoolka has been fighting to get justice for victims of unprecedented backlash of violence.
Poll heat in Haryana
Political activities seem to be escalating rapidly in Haryana ahead off the state assembly elections due next year. On Sunday, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal held a “training programme” for the party workers at Kurukshetra. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar addressed a rally in Karnal whereas Randeep Surjewala organised a rally in Khedi Chopta village of district Hisar. Surjewala, MLA from Kaithal, is also national media in-charge, AICC. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is already on a continuous “jail bharo” protest in different parts of the state.
Déjà vu for Haryana-cadre babu
It would have been a déjà vu moment for Haryana cadre IAS officer Yudhvir Singh Malik when he accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday for the inauguration of the Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal (KGP) Expressway at Kundli in Sonepat. Malik, who is now Union road transport and highways secretary, comes from Sonepat district and had also remained associated with the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) expressway as principal secretary, industries, in Haryana. He showed around the digital art gallery of NHAI at Jakhauli toll plaza in Sonepat to Modi.
Cong trying hard to make an impression
The opposition Congress, pushed to the third in the 2014 assembly elections, is trying hard to draw attention this time. Not only a woman leader of women wing of the Congress and a supporter had their heads tonsured to protest held against the BJP in Chandigarh, party supporters, scribes and cops were amused when they saw a horse-cart with placards hung around at the demonstration held against rising price of petrol and diesel. Another vehicle had several bags with placards on display, which read “15-15 lakh le lo, 2 crore naukari le lo, sasta petrol diesel le lo”, for sale.
Cap politics back in HP
In Himachal politics, cap’s colour denotes political leanings. Though chief minister Jai Ram Thakur doesn’t have any particular preference, his party men still prefer maroon band Himachali cap that gained popularity when Prem Kumar Dhumal formed the BJP-HVC (Himachal Vikas Congress) alliance government in 1998. A number of party leaders were seen sporting maroon caps when President Ram Nath Kovind visited Shimla for his summer sojourn. Thakur also presented a maroon band cap to the President and his wife Savita Kovind at a civic reception organized at government-run Peterhoff hotel.
Himachal babus go their own way
Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur opted for public transport during President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Shimla. To ease road congestion, he along with his cabinet colleagues went in tempo traveller to the Retreat where the President was staying. The CM’s initiative did not appeal to babus. The next day, a number of officers, instead of travelling in 12-seater tempo travellers reached Peterhoff for civic reception in their official vehicles. Many MLAs and ex-MLAs, on the other hand, had to trudge to the venue because the police stopped their vehicles near Vidhan Sabha, one-and-a-half kilometres ahead of the venue.
HP Cong rides on public anger
The opposition Congress in Himachal Pradesh is trying to make the most of public anger against rising prices. The Pradesh Congress Committee launched a state-wide campaign with beating of plates with spoons to protest the increase in prices of essential commodities. Then, they protest against the jump in petrol and diesel rates. While PCC chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and Congress Legislature Party leader Mukesh Agnihotri rode bullock carts, a party worker was seen riding a scooter kept on a horse-drawn cart. To add punch, the party has coined a new slogan – ““Modi sarkar matlab aa bail mujhe maar (Modi government means inviting trouble)”.
In politics, promises galore
After nine days of intense shelling by Pakistan that left 12 dead and 56 injured in Jammu, PDP ministers frequented various relief camps in their motorcades. In one such visit to Samba, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, on Friday, proposed a slew of sops for the hapless people of international border. Among other proposals, the CM said she will also look into treating people living close to the international border (IB) on par with those living close to the Line of Control (LoC) in terms of benefits by the government. When BJP ministers had, in a cabinet meeting in February, demanded same benefits to villagers on IB, the PDP ministers gave a lukewarm response. “The matter will be discussed with the law department,” they said. Watch this space to find out what BJP leaders have to say about the change in thinking of their alliance partner on this!
(Contributed by Navneet Sharma, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Avtar Singh, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur, Ravi K Khajuria)