Regional buzz: Manpreet Badal’s ‘Punjab and plane’ analogy and Sidhu’s friendly dig

From Manpreet Badal drawing an analogy between an aircraft and Punjab, to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) not having a record of meetings between Punjab CM Capt Amarinder and PM Narendra Modi, we keep a tab on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

punjab Updated: Sep 11, 2017 12:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Manpreet Badal,PMO,Narendra Modi
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal last week drew an analogy between an aircraft and the state.(Daljeet Kaur Sandhu/HT)

Keeping a tab on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Manpreet’s ‘Punjab & plane’ analogy

Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal last week drew an analogy between an aircraft and the state. The minister, while addressing thousands of students at the launch of ‘Ghar Ghar Rozgar’ programme, said just as pilot switches off lights inside the plane at the time of take-off, Punjab also needs to cut all its expenses that are draining out the state exchequer to kick-start the state’s economy. The students were not amused as the finance minister had started the analogy by saying that ‘those who had travelled in a plane would know’. However, Badal did not explain whether the state is cutting unwanted expenses or not.

PMO has no record of Modi-Capt meetings

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has been frequently meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss issues ranging from support for debt waiver to Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal. The CM or his aides brief reporters each time. But the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) does not seem to have any record of agenda or proceedings of these much-publicised between Modi and the present chief minister or his predecessor Parkash Singh Badal. What’s more, it does not have any record of the number of meetings the Punjab CM has had with Modi in the past three years. “PM meets people from all walks of life not necessarily upon formal request. This office does not maintain a separate record of the number of times a particular individual has met the prime minister,” PMO said in response to an RTI application. Perhaps photos tweeted by Modi or the CM are the only record of such meetings.

Amarinder skips AG’s dinner

Chief minister Amarinder Singh has a unique style of snubbing people. This time, he did it to advocate general Atul Nanda, whose name recently cropped up for not properly handling the issue of Public Interest Litigation against chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar. The CM skipped the dinner hosted by him on the eve of Eid. Capt opted out at the last minute, saying that his ankle was swollen. Nanda, according to sources, personally went to request the CM to attend the dinner. After PIL was admitted by the high court, Kumar stopped coming to the office. Though the case was filed by a person considered close to opposition SAD, Kumar suspected some other people’s hand and informed the CM. There is widespread belief that it was an insider’s job with names of two senior serving bureaucrats also figuring among the suspects. Nanda even had denied on record having any role in PIL.

Sidhu’s friendly dig at Ludhiana MLA

As he announced projects worth Rs 3,568 crore for Ludhiana the other day, local bodies minister Navjot Sidhu kept taking friendly digs at MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who was with him, throughout the press conference. “Asin swimming pool banauna 2 crore da, Ashi ji nu garmi badi lagdi (Ashu feels the summer heat so we will make a swimming pool for him),” he said. Again, Sidhu, while announcing fire engine for Ludhiana municipal corporation, said: “Asin Ashu nu chadana uste te bye bye karani (Ashu will climb on to the fire engine and wave to all).”

Missing Phoolka at AAP events

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader HS Phoolka, who quit as the leader of opposition in Punjab assembly two months ago, has been conspicuous by his absence from several party programmes since. The Dakha MLA was not seen at the march held by party legislators and other leaders in Chandigarh to stage a protest outside the chief minister’s residence. Phoolka was also missing from the first meeting of MLAs held after Sukhpal Khaira succeeded him. Though no AAP leader has spoken about it in public, his absence from party events has become a talking point in party circles. However, the renowned lawyer says he has been busy in New Delhi. He had quit the post of leader of opposition to continue fighting cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims in Delhi courts.

Sidhu banks on this ‘bright mind’

During an interface with architects last week, local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu introduced his adviser Amar Singh, a retired bureaucrat of Madhya Pradesh cadre, as a roshan dimaag (bright-brained) person who represents Dakha and Gill Raikot constituencies in Ludhiana district. Amar Singh advises the minister on crucial matters. And, it is said that success of the department and the minister would depend on his suggestions.

Sherry says he’s playing it cool

Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who raked up irregularities in cable business and tender on single bids in recent weeks, seems to have finally realised how the government system works. He recently told a gathering of architects that on becoming minister, he used to lose his temper but he then decided to pour water of his “hot head” and things changed. The minister had raised voice against Fastway cable network and initiated action against “tainted” engineers and officers, but did not get support from his government. Only time would how long he can stay cool this way.

Vij and his ‘dera love’

Despite the controversy surrounding the Dera Sacha Sauda, Haryana health minister Anil Vij’s love for it is refusing to die. Though he preferred to keep mum after the conviction of dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case, he opted to speak up for it now. On being repeatedly asked why he gave Rs 50 lakh to dera in the past, he said the money was for sports activities. Though the dera head has been convicted for his crime, its sports activities will continue,” he said. The buzz is that his constituency Ambala Cantonment has a good number of dera followers and he cannot afford to annoy them.

Wary of BJP, HP babus give CM meet a miss

Himachal babus are seemingly wary of decisions being taken by the state cabinet lately. The reason: the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has warned of action against those indulging in “wrongdoing” just to appease political masters. At least half a dozen IAS officers, including additional chief secretaries Tarun Shridhar and Tarun Kapoor, did not attend the latest meeting chaired by chief minister Virbhadra Singh. The cabinet agenda had items such as sale of tea gardens that could not be taken up in the meeting. Additional chief secretary Arvind Mehta and principal secretary, industries, RD Dhiman were also out of station.

BJP ticket aspirants’ food diplomacy

Ticket aspirants in the Bharatiya Janata Party are going all-out to strengthen their claim. A few have tried “food diplomacy” by hosting “dhaam” (community feasts) and dinner parties, much to the chagrin of party leadership. One of them, Ganesh Dutt, organised lunch and dinner for his supporters at a time when the party’s top brass had gathered in Shimla for Dalit Swabhiman Sammelan. The leadership did not take kindly to his feasts for supporters. Ganesh was asked why he chose “parties” over sammelan.

Bali ‘eyeing’ CM chair

Transport minister GS Bali’s desire to become chief minister is now an open secret. He first, through adversaries of Virbhadra Singh, got his name projected for top post in a workers’ meeting attended by Congress general secretary in-charge of party affairs in Himachal Sushil Kumar Shinde last month. Most recently, his supporters were seen raising slogans of “Hamara CM kaisa ho, GS Bali jaisa ho” at another party event. When asked if he was in the CM race, Bali was diplomatic. “Virbhadra is CM. The seat is yet not vacant. When it becomes vacant, I will speak openly,” he said.

Shinde gets taste of HP Cong bickering

Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde is touring the state to assess the party’s poll prospects. In his meetings with party workers, he has been appealing to them to maintain unity if they want to see the party to retain power. However, he learnt it the hard way that ensuring unity is the most difficult thing. During his visit to Chamba town, the other day, Shinde saw supporters of two ticket contenders coming to blows. A minor scuffle turned into a free for all within no time. This prompted Shinde to clarify that he is only conducting surveys and tickets will be decided by the high command.

(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Ravinder Vasudeva, Aneesha Sareen Kumar, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur)

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 12:36 IST