Regional Buzz | Capt’s box of chocolates for Jaitley and Akali spin master’s chameleon act | punjab | regional takes | Hindustan Times
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Regional Buzz | Capt’s box of chocolates for Jaitley and Akali spin master’s chameleon act

Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and J&K.

punjab Updated: Mar 27, 2017 10:06 IST
Hindustan Times
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.(HT File Photo)


After taking over as Punjab CM, among the first people Capt Amarinder Singh called on was Union finance minister Arun Jaitley at his New Delhi residence. If you remember the exchange of barbs between the two in Amritsar during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and later Captain blaming Jaitley for Swiss bank accounts’ controversy, this should be news. Amarinder and Jaitley are “old friends” and the latter even stayed at his Patiala palace in happier times. So Amarinder took a box of chocolates for his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend to sweeten their ties once again and they seem to have worked.


Even chameleon can learn a trick or two from him. For, Harcharan Bains, long-time media aide to Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, who also styles himself as general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal, knows the craft of cosying up with powers-that-be. Even before Akalis could come to terms with a humiliating defeat in Punjab, their wily spin-master issued a statement effusively congratulating media adviser to Congress chief minister (CM) Captain Amarinder Singh. As if this personal PR pitch was not sweet enough, Bains, known for his acerbic statements against political rivals, followed it up by penning a newspaper article, applauding the Captain for his choice of bureaucrats and first decisions. His purple prose for the Congress government raised many eyebrows in Akali Dal, but it didn’t surprise those familiar with Bains’ knack for befriending his foes in power.


On taking over as health minister when Brahm Mohindra went to his office in the state civil secretariat at Chandigarh for the first time, a large number of his supporters, doctors belonging to Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) and other department staff followed him. He got pictures clicked with supporters but politely refused when some doctors requested him for a photo. The doctors withdrew with the scene with a promise from the minister that he would pose for pictures with them at an appropriate time.


Congress MLA from Khemkaran Sukhpal Singh Bhullar wasn’t too pleased with the state cabinet’s decision to tell ministers and legislators to give up red beacons. But Amarinder Singh’s appeal to his colleagues to comply with the decision appears to have worked with the young legislator who was moving in a vehicle with red beacon atop till Thursday. A few hours after the CM made the appeal on Saturday, citing collective responsibility of all party to uphold the commitments, Bhullar, who was initially in no mood to shun red beacon, softened his stand. “I was planning to talk to him. We respect the CM’s word. I will give it up,” he told a reporter of this newspaper. Others reluctant leaders have also fallen in line albeit gradually.


Another friendship that had gone sour was between former leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar and Capt Amarinder Singh. One of the biggest upsets of this election for the Congress was Jakhar losing from his home turf, Abohar, and the biggest score for it was Captain returning as CM. One was solemn in the loss and the other soaked in adulation of victory. Jakhar met Amarinder at Delhi last week to break the ice. The Congress is looking for a Hindu face as its Punjab chief and Jakhar fits the bill. But in Congress they now say, all will need the king’s pleasure!


Folk singer and ex-MLA Mohammad Sadique, who failed to retain his seat, was seen a bit lost in the VIP visitors’ gallery in the Punjab assembly on the opening day of the ongoing session when the newly elected MLAs were taking oath. He had to stand, as the gallery was jampacked. A simpleton, Sadique had failed to leave much impression during his tenure as MLA when his party was in the opposition.


Congress leader Gurjit Singh Aujla won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by 1.99 lakh votes, but his victory went virtually unnoticed. The reason: the party’s rousing victory in the assembly elections in Punjab. His party colleagues felt that Aujla had got a raw deal. “Poor Mr Gurjit Aujla, he won Amritsar LS seat for Congress...but ignored by media in the din of assembly results,” Congress national spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad tweeted last week. But why blame the media. Desperately looking to stem its tide of poll debacles, the Congress was so ebullient that its leaders also only talked about the assembly win. A victory is a victory nonetheless!


Newly elected MP from Amritsar Gurjit Singh Aujla took his oath in Lok Sabha in Punjabi. His choice of language earned him praise from the locals. Asked why he chose Punjabi to take oath, the Congress leader said: “When I reached there, I had prepared to take oath in Hindi. But as I was given the option of taking oath in Punjabi language, there was nothing to think about. I opted for Punjabi”.


How much can coincidence play itself? The answer in case of Faridkot MLA Kiki Dhillon is quite often. The “companionship” of Kiki and his Akali rival in elections, Bunty Romana, goes back a long way. And as luck would have it, now Kiki’s daughter, who has taken admission in a prestigious school in Chandigarh after few years at Lawrence School at Sanawar, happens to be in the same class and section as Bunty’s daughter. Kiki has defeated Bunty in the election and hope the rivalry does not pass on from fathers to the daughters.


When the new Congress government took over, it hit the ground running. The state cabinet headed by Capt Amarinder Singh took more than 100 decisions in its first meeting. But the same alacrity is missing in the government departments. They have been slow to respond to the change. While the ministers took oath on March 16 followed by bureaucratic shake-ups, the websites of government departments continued to show old information, including names and photographs of ministers of the previous Akali government, for days. By the end of the week, only names of the new ministers were entered. Their contact details and photographs are still not there.


The new police commissioner Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh is giving Ludhiana police cops sleepless nights. While the CP has been chairing meetings with his staff that go on till midnight, the officer also went to a spot of car snatching in Ghumar Mandi area at 11pm on March 20, even before the area police reached there. The police then received a dressing down for being late.


Retired IAS officer RS Varma was at his candid self at a book release function held in Chandigarh last week. A former chief secretary of Haryana, Varma sent the gathering of bureaucrats, both retired and serving, in splits. He recalled how he was shifted to an insignificant post when the then CM Bhajan Lal did not like some of his decisions. “There was neither office nor staff. It was during that time I realised that I had time to spend with family,” he said. He was later offered an important department. “I told my seniors that it was this posting that he was enjoying the most,” he added. Former Punjab CS Ramesh Inder Singh, who spoke after Varma, also had the gathering smiling when he said that like Verma, most bureaucrats had a Lal in their life.


The BJP’s spectacular win in Uttar Pradesh has come as resurrection of lost confidence for some BJP leaders in Haryana. Facing the ire of the Jat community, finance minister Capt Abhimanyu had called their leader Yashpal Malik a samaj sevi in one of his press conferences before the UP poll results. But that was only till Malik’s threat that Jats will boycott BJP in UP was worrying the party leaders. Soon after the UP results, Abhimanyu held another press conference. “Yashpal Malik ke pas muh chupane ki bi jagah ni hai...vo samaj ko tod rahe hai,” he said.


Inspired by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, BJP MLA from Ladwa Pawan Saini has decided to shun amber light atop his vehicle. Saini said he took the step as he was impressed with Yogi’s “simple living”. This is not his first attempt to grab eyeballs. The MLA had also tried to get attention by promoting bicycle, first pedalling to several villages of his constituency and then travelling to Chandigarh on bicycle in August 2016 to attend the assembly session.


Former minister Mahinder Singh Thakur is known for changing political loyalties. A six-time MLA, he once shared close proximity with ex-CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, but is trying to get close to Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda. Thakur marked his presence when Nadda recently visited Kullu. He had made his assembly debut as an independent, later switched to former telecom minister Sukhram’s Himachal Vikas Congress and then joined the BJP.


BJP legislator Maheshwar Singh and his younger brother ayurveda minister Karan Singh, Congress MLA from Banjar, have been sparring over political supremacy in Kullu district. Their differences became sharp when the state government last year took control of their ancestral temple dedicated to Lord Raghunath. Maheshwar objected, but Karan backed it. The two brothers shared the stage when JP Nadda recently visited Kullu for inaugurating Digidhan Mela.

(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Aseem Bassi, Aneesha Sareen Kumar Rajesh Moudgil, Hardik Anand, Neeraj Mohan and Gaurav Bisht)