Regional buzz: From Bajwa’s aversion for knee-toucher to Khattar in poll mode

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

When Capt left many bamboozled

Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s response to the latest ease of doing business rankings that saw Punjab at 20th position has left people bewildered. The CM, in response to a query on the state’s poor showing in an interview to this newspaper, said, “We have done a lot of work in a year. Our industrial policy is yet to come out”. Amarinder overlooked the ‘Industrial Development and Business Development Policy, 2017’ passed by the state cabinet in a meeting chaired by him in October. The CM had himself listed its key features at an investment conclave in New Delhi a few days later. “Capt perhaps chose to disregard it because his government is yet to implement several of its key initiatives and incentives,” chuckled a state official. Better to forget than regret!

Bajwa & his aversion for knee-toucher

“Benti, milan aaun waley sajna no sanimar benti hai ki goddey hath la ke mainu sharminda an kro, atey aap na sharminda hovo (Request all the gentlemen coming to meet me not to embarrass me by touching my knees and also don’t feel embarrassed),” reads a notice outside rural development, panchayats and housing minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa’s office at the civil secretariat in Chandigarh. Similar notices have been put up outside the camp office in his Sector 2 official bungalow and another office in Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority. Justifying his stand, Bajwa told visitors that those who do this cannot serve the people. However, Congress MLA Sukhpal Bhullar, who was present, countered him, saying the gesture is a mark of respect. “Rajneeti ch jehrey goddey hath laundey ney ohe pagg utardey ney” pat came Bajwa’s reply.

AAP’s venue woes go on

The Aam Aadmi Party’s venue woes seem to continue in Punjab. AAP state co-president Dr Balbir Singh and general secretary Dinesh Chadha planned a press conference on Friday and messages were sent to journalists to reach a convention centre in Chandigarh’s Sector 36, but it was cancelled after the organisers found that the venue had already been taken by one of the Left parties for its meeting. They again changed their mind after a while and decided to hold the press meet at Chandigarh Press Club. However, Singh didn’t show up due to an “important party work”, leaving it to Chadha to give information on “overcrowded jails”. Earlier, when Delhi deputy chief minister and Punjab affairs in-charge Manish Sisodia was to address the party leaders in May, arrangements were made at a community centre but the party had to wind it up in a hurry. Municipal corporation officials stopped the event because no religious or political functions can be held there as per rules.

The story behind SSP Bhullar’s transfer

In the latest police reshuffle, the transfer of Jalandhar Rural senior superintendent of police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Bhullar became a talking point in power circles of Punjab. Popularly known as Bobby, he is probably the richest IPS in the country shifted from the district despite being close to many at the chief minister’s residence and a blue-eyed boy of director general of police Suresh Arora and director general, intelligence, Dinkar Gupta. Ever since he was promoted, Bhullar remained SSP in various districts in successive regimes. The buzz is that he was moved out because one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the chief minister’s office (CMO) put his foot down. He is due to become DIG soon.

OSD-adviser tussle at Capt office

Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s office has a running conflict between his trusted officers and advisers. Both revel in selective media leaks, to show their importance in the “system”, with an army of OSDs and advisers ensuring there are enough news feeds on their role to get voice of party MLAs heard. A top functionary of the CMO who had told reporters that DCs have been asked to revoke ban on sale of syringes, issued the transfer orders of Bathinda DC Diparva Lakra who denied receiving such an order, which the CMO construed was conveyed through media. Rupnagar DC Gurneet Kaur Tej, too, was moved out after her tussle with speaker Rana KP Singh came out in the open. The lesson: CMOs news feeds are orders and defiance is not an option.

Ex-DGP takes on Cong government over drugfight

After a rash of deaths due to suspected drug overdose in Punjab in the past two months left everyone shocked, former director general (prisons) Shashi Kant, who is vocal on drugs issue and active on social media, posted a series of tweets, taking digs at the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government’s handling of drug menace. “CM of drug-infested Punjab needs to demolish his China Wall of OSDs. Is fast losing touch with ground (sic),” he posted on Twitter. The self-proclaimed anti-drug crusader’s next one was on the government’s decision to recommend death penalty to drug smugglers for first offence in which he welcomed the move but added: “Who is gonna arrest drug lords….it only amounts to brushing issue under the carpet (sic)”. When some deputy commissioners banned sale of syringes without prescription, he wrote: “Pity the kneejerk policy of the Punjab government, on drug issue. It should know that needle sharing is worse than drugs. It is one sure way to possible HIV epidemic”. Among the first to question the move, he was spot on.

Soni & his stand on transfers

Education and environment minister OP Soni, who recently held a meeting with environment engineers of Punjab Pollution Control Board, asked them to work where they are posted. “Transfers don’t benefit, but in case anyone has a problem he can approach me with a request,” he added. In education department, Soni has sent 2,000 cases of transfer of teachers to the department secretary. The matter is pending because of large numbers.

Bajwa is soccer aficionado

Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa, who became president of the Judo Federation of India five months ago, did a quick poll on social media on the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 between France and Croatia. Like many other football fans, Bajwa was also undecided on which side would lift the cup. “Head says it will be Croatia lifting the cup but heart says it will be France. Who do you think? #WorldCupFinal (sic),” tweeted the former Punjab Congress president, asking his Twitter followers to tick their choice.

One rally, three names

The name of the mega rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mukstar’s Malout on Wednesday after his government hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops left most people, including journalists, confused. The SAD-BJP show was billed as a “dhanwad (thanksgiving) rally”. Then, SAD leaders put up hoardings, calling it ‘Kisan Kalyan Rally’. On the day of the event, a big banner on the stage read ‘Kisan Khet Majdoor Dhanwad Rally’. One rally with three different names! But then what is in a name if all goes well.

Khattar in poll mode

With polls due next year, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is on a rally spree. Last week, he went to Mewat and plans to travel to Mahendragarh, Kurukshetra and Karnal in a fortnight’s time. Then, he will visit Barwala in Hisar district on August 5. The four districts are four corners of the state but then he and other party leaders need to put in a lot of extra effort this time, given the way things stand.

Rajni Patil drives home the message

AICC general secretary in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Rajni Patil is finding it tough to unite the warring factions, particularly the one headed by former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, in the state. Singh spared no opportunity to show his sway and stature to the central leaders, but Patil was not overawed. She reminded him of sacrifices made by the families of Congressmen for the nation, citing her co-in-charge Gurkirat Kotli, the grandson of former CM Beant Singh, and her own family background. Patil said her maternal grandfather was a freedom fighter who was hanged by the British. Virbhadra got the message.

Vikramaditya showers praise on Jai Ram

Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, who is Congress MLA from Shimla Rural constituency, has taken the social media route to heap praises on CM Jai Ram Thakur even as the Congress party is critical of the BJP government. “I don’t believe in politics of criticism. I always appreciate work which is worth appreciating, not matters if they may be my political rival (sic)” Vikramaditya posted on Facebook, hailing Thakur for completing works started by the previous Virbhadra government. He is also seen meeting the chief minister at regular intervals.

Pickpockets have field day at Congress conclave

Leaders of the opposition Congress were left embarrassed after their day-long workers’ convention in Solan to prepare for the upcoming parliamentary polls. Pickpockets had a field day at the meeting, stealing from the pockets of about three dozen-odd participants. AICC secretary co-in-charge of party affairs and Punjab MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli also lost his mobile phone amid the rush of workers. The organisers made repeated announcements asking the party workers to look for it, but they could not.

Jammu MLA, wife leave BJP red-faced

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Jammu were red-faced after the party’s RS Pura MLA Gagan Bhagat and his wife Monika Sharma, who is state secretary of the women wing, went public with their marital discord. Monika accused her husband of having an extra-marital affair with a college student. On Thursday, the party’s disciplinary committee called them to explain their positions. The grandfather of the 19-year old girl had also protested outside the party headquarters in Jammu city, accusing the MLA of abducting the girl. Later, Monika claimed that her husband had married the girl. All eyes are on how the disciplinary committee handles the matter.

(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Ravinder Vasudeva, Sukhdeep Kaur, Sarbmeet Singh, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Ravi K Khajuria)

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