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Regional buzz: Of media darling Navjot Singh Sidhu and homeless OSDs of Captain

From Captain’s masterstroke to selective usage of social media by HP minister, here is a a round up of what has been brewing in the power circles of the region.

punjab Updated: Sep 10, 2018 15:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Regional buzz,media darling,Navjot Singh Sidhu
Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.(HT File Photo)

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

Sidhu-Mustafa shift: A masterstroke by Capt

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s move to shift ADGP Harpreet Sidhu from policing work to his office as special principal secretary and make DGP Mohd Mustafa the new chief of special task force (STF) has stumped many. Though everyone is trying to guess who crafted the move, a little bird tells this newspaper that the reshuffle was the CM’s idea with DGP Suresh Arora being in the know. Sidhu and Arora have been having a turf war. By shifting Sidhu to CMO, Capt has signalled he is with Arora and tried to pre-empt any outburst from within the Congress and the opposition parties on his exit from the anti-drugs task force that probed allegations against Akali leader Bikram Majithia. Mustafa, who is politically well-connected and eyeing the top job, has also been satisfied. The buzz is that all this was done to ensure smooth extension in service to Arora beyond the date of superannuation. The extension request was sent by home secretary NS Kalsi to the Centre without anyone, including the CM’s powerful chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar, getting a whiff of it. More politics than policing, shall we say?

Sherry doesn’t like to be questioned

Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been a media darling and loves to call a press conference at the drop of a hat. But the former cricketer-turned-politician, who likes to raise questions over the actions of others, including many in the government of which he is a part, does not seem fond of taking queries. His media interactions follow a fixed routine in which goes on and on before allowing questions – and that, too, only the ones that are to his liking. Those asking tough questions are snubbed. At his latest press meeting, he told a journalist: “Why are you asking this question when no one else has raised the issue?” Another favourite one-liner that he delivers to scribes with a contemptuous glance is: “I have let go of the directorship of the school in which you are trying to take admission”.

Power tussle to the fore

The Punjab government’s move to sideline special chief secretary KBS Sidhu by posting him as director general, Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration (MGSIPA), Chandigarh, once again brought to fore the power tussle among senior bureaucrats in the state. The post fell vacant with the retirement of former chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal who was posted there after the Congress came to power in March 2017. Both Sidhu and Sarvesh have not been in the charmed circle of powers in the present government. They enjoy camaraderie and keep complimenting each other on social media for their digs at rivals.

Homeless OSDs of Capt!

Two officers on special duty (OSDs) to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh were left virtually homeless last month. The two political appointees were told to vacate the rooms they have been occupying in Punjab Bhawan at Chandigarh ever since their appointment in March 2017. The instructions were issued by the general administration department. And, it was only after the chief minister’s political secretary Sandeep Sandhu intervened that the two were accommodated temporarily in Punjab Bhawan on the condition that they will vacate the rooms “as soon as possible”.

Mrar keeps everyone guessing

Former Muktsar MLA Sukhdarshan Mrar is keeping everyone guessing. Mrar had joined the Congress after defeating former chief minister Harcharan Singh Brar in 2002 as an independent candidate, but contested the 2007 assembly elections as nominee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). In 2017 elections, he was in the fray as independent. A few months later, Mrar was seen with some Congress leaders during the municipal polls. Last week, the former MLA was with former Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar when the latter launched his ‘Mukti Yatra’. Now that’s quite a meandering journey for the ex-MLA, making it tough for anyone to track his moves.

Surjewala all praises for Rahul

AICC communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala held a press conference in Chandigarh last week to talk about a controversial defence deal, starting his media interaction by setting the ground rules. The Kaithal MLA told newspersons to keep their questions focused on the issue. However, when a journalist asked him about Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s yatra to Kailash Mansarovar, he immediately lapped up the opportunity to praise Rahul and went on and on about it, throwing away the rules set by him.

Dushyant Chautala’s promotion push

The elevation of 1994-batch IPS officers in Haryana from the rank of inspector general of police (IGP) to additional director general of police (ADGP) surprised many in the officialdom. The hurry with which the entire process was executed despite the fact that the 1994-batch officers would have been eligible for promotion only in 2019 led to many theories. However, it now emerges that Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MP Dushyant Chautala played a key role in getting the officers promoted. Chautala is learnt to have requested the chief minister to hasten the promotion of 1994 batch as his father-in-law, IPS officer Paramjit Singh Ahlawat, was retiring from service on August 31. Ahlawat, a promotee officer of the 1994 batch, thus, became the biggest beneficiary of the hurried exercise.

Chhillar and his power queries

Former INLD legislator colonel Raghbir Singh Chhillar (retd) has been out of the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission (HERC) for years, but he never lets go of any opportunity to rake up issues concerning power sector. Chhillar, who was chairman of HERC from 2001 to 2006, has gone after the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government for taking away the electricity meter-reading work from ex-servicemen in the state and giving it to private firms. The former Badhra MLA shot off letters to Khattar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others without any result so far, but he is refusing to give up. The former regulatory body chief has double motivation this time. He is a former army man himself and the assembly elections are also round the corner.

Kanwar adores his mentor — Dhumal

Himachal Pradesh rural development and panchayati raj minister Virender Kanwar is an ardent follower of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. The minister moved into Keleston Hall, a government bungalow where his mentor, Dhumal, resided as the leader of opposition during the previous Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government, about a month ago. He ordered his staff not to remove the former CM’s nameplate adorning the main gate of the official bungalow. The staff got Kanwar’s nameplate fixed besides the earlier one. And, the minister is drawing praise for his unquestioned loyalty towards the veteran leader who was trounced by a one-time protégé in the state elections last year.

This HP minister uses social media selectively

Forest and transport minister Govind Singh Thakur, a three-time legislator from Manali, had taken the lead over his colleagues on social network sites. The minister was keeping friends and followers informed about his tours and government decisions, but also seeking suggestions from them. When the transport department increased the charges for chartered buses engaged by private schools in Shimla town, Thakur did not make any mention on social media. The rate hike led to widespread criticism and chief minister Jai Ram Thakur had to put it on hold but not before the episode exposed the truth about the minister’s openness.

The confused J&K BJP unit

The BJP unit of Jammu and Kashmir either seems to be confused or considers people naive and gullible. It summoned a party worker, Rajesh Gupta, on Friday to clear his stand on Article 35-A, and derogatory remarks he allegedly made against the state unit president. Gupta was the same man who had spoken against any tinkering with the constitutional provision. The remarks had drawn praise from former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who mistook him as a sitting MLA with the same name from Jammu East. At that time, the BJP had distanced itself from Gupta, saying he was not even a member of the party. Now, the party’s disciplinary panel has issued him a notice, asking why he should not be expelled from party for gross indiscipline.

(Contributed by Ravinder Vasudeva, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sarbmeet Singh, Rajesh Moudgil, Hitender Rao, Gaurav Bisht and Ravi K Khajuria)

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First Published: Sep 10, 2018 15:48 IST