Regional buzz: Congress vs Congress, miffed Maluka and a Modi worshipper
Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, HP and J&Kpunjab Updated: Jul 18, 2016 11:20 IST
Congress vs Congress
The Congress is so used to fighting the Congress that it almost cannot help it. Now that the detractors of Captain Amarinder Singh have been either expelled or are quiet, his loyalists are busy targeting strategist Prashant Kishor and his team, IPAC, for their “transgressions”. Some fiercely guard Captain’s turf and get Amarinder to tick off Kishor now and then to remind him of the boundaries. Kishor seems to love to ruffle feathers by “showing off” his clout and meddling into matters organisational. But a senior leader says the tug-of-war is forgotten after both drink to each other’s health, as Amarinder never forgets to play the perfect host to Kishor, who stays at his residence when in Chandigarh.
Bitter on Twitter
Harcharan Bains, media adviser to Punjab chief minister, was engaged in a bare-knuckle spat with former Congress leader Jagmeet Brar on Twitter for two days running. The exchange started warmly enough at least from Bains’ side, but soon the two were trading barely concealed insults. While Brar attacked Bains for his blind toeing of the party line, Bains took digs at Brar’s craven desire to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Both, known otherwise for their suave public image, descended quickly to making scathing personal jibes at one another. Brar said Bains lived in the high castle of the Badals, while Bains responded by saying that Brar’s Awaaz-e-Punjab was actually Awaaz-e-Kejriwal. Brar went on to insinuate that Bains was using fake Twitter handles to get support. Bains said the AAP’s troll army had joined hands with Brar to abuse him on Twitter. Finally, both gave up and issued press notes to say they had won the Twitter war.
Punjab rural development and panchayats minister Sikandar Singh Maluka appears to be angry. Whenever a reporter asks him any ‘tough’ question, the Akali minister loses his cool. Last week, a scribe asked the minister how many panchayats had passed resolutions against the SYL (Sutlej Yamuna Link) canal, but he dismissed the question. “Write whatever you want to. My department has nothing to do with these resolutions. It is their (panchayats’) own initiative,” he retorted. The minister was surrounded by officials, supporters, and security guards. And they didn’t seem impressed with his response.
Akalis seal lips
‘When passing through tough times, stay united’ is the mantra of Akali leaders these days. Faced with high stakes in the 2017 assembly elections, the Akali ministers have closed ranks. They are tight-lipped about all that goes on behind the closed doors. “I would never reveal what is discussed in the Cabinet meeting,” agriculture minister Tota Singh told a reporter of this newspaper, when asked about discussions on the proposed PCOCA (Punjab Control of Organised Crime Act) Bill. The minister said that there might be serious differences, but he would not bring those in the open.
Politicians have a short memory. Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma, while speaking on the new teachers’ transfer policy last week, said that male teachers over 50 would not be posted in the senior secondary schools for girls. The opposition Congress hit out at the BJP government instantly, objecting to the move. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar questioned the rationale behind the decision. Adampur legislator Kuldeep Bishnoi blamed it on “frustration and sick mentality”. The party’s student wing, NSUI, also condemned the “regressive mentality”, terming the move as “shameful”. The Congress leaders were quick to slam the minister, getting the media excited. But they forgot that their own government’s transfer policy had this clause. “Only female teachers or male teacher above the age of 50 will be posted in the girls’ schools. This provision will be applicable to the ministerial staff,” read the transfer-policy notice of the-then Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in April 2008. The clause, which has been there for a long time, is mentioned specifically in transfer orders. But, as they say, the opposition is there to oppose.
Leak not liked
Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka knows how to use the media. So it was not unexpected when he demanded that the call details of chief secretary DS Dhesi and a reporter of this newspaper be scrutinised to get into the “leaking” of his “minor penalty charge sheet”. His letter seeking scrutiny appeared in language newspapers even before it reached the state government, an apparent leak by Khemka himself. For someone who has been widely perceived to have thrived on selective leaks to the media during his career, Khemka now appears to take every piece of news not to his liking as a “leak”.
The bickering in Haryana Congress got louder just days after the All-India Congress Committee general secretary and in-charge of the party affairs in Haryana, Kamal Nath, claimed there was no groupism within. A statement by state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry that “chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was honest but surrounded by indecent people” gave ammunition to the leaders loyal to former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Though Choudhry said her remark was twisted out of context, Hooda loyalists, including Kuldeep Sharma, Karan Dalal, Geeta Bhukkal and Shakuntala Khatak, criticised her. They said the CLP leader’s praise for Khattar was “shocking”, since it was he who was “targeting top Congress leaders with vengeance” and “slapping false cases on them”. Later, party leaders Phool Chand Mullana and Nirmal Singh joined them, calling Choudhry’s statement a “great disappointment”.
His office issues transfer and posting orders of the IAS officers, but does not find time to update the names of its officers on its own website. The chief secretary’s office has three IAS officers, in-charge of training, vigilance and parliamentary affairs, general administration and secretariat establishment. But the names and telephone numbers of the IAS officers on these posts are not updated. Going by the CS office website, Apoorva Kumar Singh, principal secretary (PS), technical education, is still PS, training, vigilance and parliamentary affairs, and Rajeev Ranjan, secretary, general administration. Both officers were shifted from the chief secretary’s office three months ago.
Ever since he dropped a “letter bomb” on his party, Himachal Pradesh BJP veteran leader Shanta Kumar has been trying to make amends. Almost every week, the Kangra MP writes to one or the other party leader, mostly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His letters are full of praises for the PM for his “extraordinary work”. Shanta, in a letter to Modi on the need for implementing a national policy on population control, wrote the other day: “Only you have the capabilities to do chamatkar to overcome this problem (growing population).”
Himachal Pradesh transport minister GS Bali has become active on social-networking media these days. The minister posts on Facebook the details of every decision in the three offices he holds. When Bali, in a post, asked people to submit videos of drunken drivers of state roadways buses and get `1,000 cash award, the idea was appreciated. And there was response, too. “We have a prize winner under the scheme,” he posted the other day.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Chitleen K Sethi, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil and Naresh K Thakur)