Regional Buzz | The ‘new Badal Saab’, rebel’s advice to Kejriwal, and Jakhar’s self clarification!
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Regional Buzz | The ‘new Badal Saab’, rebel’s advice to Kejriwal, and Jakhar’s self clarification!

Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh

punjab Updated: May 15, 2017 10:00 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Navjot Singh Sidhu,Arvind Kejriwal,Sunil Jakhar
Illustration: Daljeet Kaur Sandhu

The ‘new Badal Saab’

“Nawein Badal Saab aaye ne” is how the witty local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu referred to finance minister Manpreet Badal during their visit to Amritsar on Sunday. As the duo addressed a joint press conference and faced questions related to the Badals who ran the show during the previous SAD-BJP regime, Sidhu was quick to direct them to Manpreet. “Ehna di gall suno, eh dassange, nawein Badal Saab aaye ne (Listen to him, he will tell, new Badal Saab has come),” he said, bringing smiles on the faces of Congress leaders present. And even Manpreet couldn’t stop himself from smiling at his cabinet colleague’s smart deflection.

Jakhar’s self clarification!

Newly appointed Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar heaped lavish praise on chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh for bestowing the presidency on him during his taking over ceremony last week. But when he had rushed to thank Amarinder on the day of his appointment, he had a surprise in store. Amarinder casually asked him about his well-being till Jakhar broke the news. What followed was a warm bear hug that was splashed on newspapers the next day! Once bitten for taking on Amarinder, the new state Congress chief is now treading with caution. After warning his party not to forget its promises to people and police and civil government officials to shed their “old” mindset, he took pains to explain to a select bunch of journalists on Friday that he was not trying to emerge as a parallel power centre in the party.

New Punjab Cong chief’s ‘darbar’

Sunil Jakhar has started drawing the attention of party leaders and workers from the word go. From ministers to contenders for party positions, all have started lining up outside his office in the state capital. Last week, education minister Aruna Chaudhary and her husband Ashok Kumar called upon the new state Congress chief. More ministers are expected in the party office in days to come as Jakhar is planning to set a timetable for ministers to be in party office for interface with the party workers.

Rebel’s advice to Kejri

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebel Bhai Baldeep Singh never lets go any opportunity to hit out the party top brass, but still seems to be hopeful about it. When comedian-turned-politician Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi quit the party after being removed from the post of party’s state convener last week, the multi-talented leader tweeted: “Sad! @ArvindKejriwal, this is the last time I am telling U, If U want any political future in Punjab, come knocking! (sic)”. Bhai Baldeep, who is a renowned Gurbani Sangeet exponent and used to run an academy, was dumped by the party two years ago for openly voicing his views on the party leadership’s frequent faux pas. If his tweet is a signal, it would be interesting to see if Kejriwal, who is under unprecedented pressure after a slew of allegations by an ex-minister, takes note and makes amends to knock at the doors of former colleagues to try and regain the lost momentum.

Cong’s new ‘poster boys’

In power, the Congress has new “poster boys” in Punjab, both on ground and Facebook. And they are not politicians! Soon after appointment of six young officers on special duty (OSDs) by CM Captain Amarinder Singh, posters came up in Punjab of the OSDs thanking CM’s three political secretaries. Some credited Major Amardeep and Karanpal Sekhon and others, Captain Sandeep Sandhu. On the day Sunil Jakhar was appointed, it was again Sandhu who was beaming on a huge poster put up just outside the gates of Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh by the Congress Sewa Dal! He was at the centre while the likes of Jakhar, CM, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi were relegated to the background. Is a poster war now brewing within the coterie? Take a guess!

Down in the dumps? No, on ‘Cloud Nine’

Former Congress MP and now Punjab chief of Trinamool Congress Jagmeet Brar may be in political dumps since his party’s zero performance in the recent Punjab assembly elections, but he emerged out of hibernation last week by holding a press conference at Cloud Nine restaurant of a hotel in Chandigarh. Having headed a disastrous debut of Didi’s party in Punjab, one-time stormy petrel of the Congress is back to doing what he is good at – making bombastic statements. He suggested that debt-ridden farmers be allowed to grow opium, not for personal consumption but to supplement their income. Brar, who criticised CM Captain Amarinder Singh before the state polls, seems to have changed his stand now. He praised Amarinder for his stand on the SYL Canal, giving his government time till the 2019 parliamentary polls to deliver on his promises.

‘Khubi’ of CM’s security adviser

Khubi Ram, security adviser of Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, accompanies him on all his visits. And, it is not difficult to spot him. Khubi is there, sticking out his neck for every photo opportunity. He manages to find space each time, either in the centre or in some corner, in most photographs. Khubi, who retired from Punjab Police in January 2015 as inspector general, joined Amarinder as his security liaison officer a few months later. On forming the government, Amarinder brought the retired IPS officer as his security adviser.

Punjab bureaucrats fail to make the cut

The empanelment of IAS officers by the Centre for the post of secretary has left the bureaucracy in Punjab disappointed. Though 37 officers of the 1984 and 1985 batches from across the country have been empanelled for the post, there is not a single name from the state in the list. Two officers, Nirmaljeet Singh Kalsi and Chhabilendra Roul from 1984 and 1985 batches, respectively, figure among the 36 officers empanelled for the “secretary equivalent” posts despite the state having a number of IAS officers in the two batches. The lists were cleared by the appointments committee of the cabinet at the Centre about 10 days ago after a “360” process. As per a secretary-level IAS officer, the empanelment exercise was perhaps more rigorous this time, as fewer officers made the cut.

Pay up time for Haryana babus

It is pay up time for bureaucrats in Haryana. They got a letter from the IAS Officers Association last week, asking them to clear their dues related to annual contribution from 2007-08 to 2016-17. “The association organises social events, including farewells on the retirement of its members, celebration of Lohri, Diwali, Holi and Teej festivals and other social get-togethers to promote camaraderie amongst its members. All these expenses are met from the contribution...the outstanding amount might have skipped your attention due to busy schedule,” reads the letter sent by the association treasurer. The officers have been asked to clear the dues that go up to ₹28,000 through cheque or cash, never mind their insistence on digital payments in government transactions. The reminder, asking them to pay up the hefty sum in one go, hasn’t gone too well with some members. The communication has come at a time when there are already murmurs of discontent about the association doing little to protect the officers from political interference or protecting their turf from the growing clout of police officers, both retired and working, in the state.

Beacons gone, VIPs groan

There is a clamour among politicians and bureaucrats in Haryana against giving up their red or orange beacon. The reason: They do not get unhindered passage at toll plazas and have to wait in the long queues. After several of them griped about their discomfort, the buzz is that the authorities are putting their heads together for an alternative. The option being considered is to put “special stickers” on their vehicles and inform the toll plaza

operators about the same. But nothing is final. One would have to wait to see what actually happens.

BJP and its ‘black sheep’

Himachal Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and state BJP president Satpal Singh Satti got engaged in a strange verbal duel the other day. Sukhu claimed that many BJP leaders were in touch with him and were keen to join the Congress. Known for his sarcasm, Satti didn’t let it pass. “If that is so, the Congress should not waste time and immediately make them join the party. Our party has no place for black sheep,” he said without batting an eyelid. The Congress chief didn’t know how to respond.

(Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht)

First Published: May 15, 2017 10:00 IST