PPCC chief first
A deluge of supporters put paid to Congress MLA Charanjit Kaur Bajwas hopes of greeting her husband newly appointed Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa at the Amritsar Railway Station on Saturday. As the Swaran Shatabdi,in which Bajwa was travelling,chugged into the station,Charanjit Kaur,holding a bunch of flowers,along with a few other family members rushed towards his compartment only to be beaten to it by a huge rush of Congress workers and supporters. Kaur was soon advised not to proceed with her plans to welcome her husband. If it was any consolation,Bajwa himself was seen struggling to move amidst the huge crowd as he stepped off the train.
Scoring over others
While the huge crowd,to greet new Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa,thwarted his wifes plans to greet him,it seemed to have provided local Congress leaders an opportunity to score some brownie points over their peers and rivals within the party. Soon after Bajwas visit,Congress leader from Majitha,Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli Majithia,issued a press statement claiming that he was responsible for the huge crowd and as such was the talk of the town. The release stated that such was the number of Congress workers from Majitha under Lalli Majithias leadership,that their vehicles were everywhere. It further went on to add that Bajwa was so elated that he remarked: Lalli is a fighter leader,who has deep relations and attachment from heart with people of Majitha and Amritsar district.
Having sparked off a row over the Congress sneaking in the Tarn Taran victim without a valid pass,the SAD-BJP government had another job at hand. With its members having stressed that no one from the ruling alliance ever enters the Assembly without a pass,the Vidhan Sabha began in earnest to prove it right. Point made,the Assembly secretariat worked overtime that day issuing passes to all those who were already inside the House!
Punjab Minister Bikram Singh Majithia made a fervent appeal to the Speaker this week. Please make the working of the Vidhan Sabha paperless. At least the reports and files that you give to the members will not be used against you. You spend money and get them printed and then have a hard time saving yourself when they are used as missiles, he told the Speaker referring to the Congress MLAs having flung papers and reports at the Speakers chair.
Missing old foe
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal displayed his customary wit in the House as he spoke of missing his bete noire,former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh,in the Assembly. If this is the kind of leadership that Pratap Singh Bajwa is going to give his men,people will start saying Captain Amarinder was any day better! I wanted to meet him to share his grief (for having been removed as the PPCC chief) but could not find him. He has just vanished.
Earning his stripes
His antics in the Assembly have made former minister and Congress leader Jagmohan Singh Kang,a favourite of his party colleagues. Kang had captured the Speakers chair and had then announced: The House is dissolved. When the Congress decided to hold a mock Assembly,Kang was unanimously chosen to chair it. Only the well-built Kang found it difficult perching himself on a chair atop a wooden bench. But once there,he acted as a tough speaker,even rejecting some point of orders requested by the Congressmen!
Back to power
Former Congress -turned-SAD MLA Joginder Pal Jain is busy these days making arrangements for a sangat darshan to be organised in his constituency. Jain is still basking in his victory and never forgets to mention: I was out of power for six long years and now I am feeling the taste of being in power.
No portfolio for Jain
While sources close to him claim that Moga MLA Joginder Pal Jain was expecting a ministerial berth after defeating the Congress Vijay Sathi by a convincing margin,Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal is in no mood to grant the MLAs wishes. The stumbling block seems to be a large number of criminal cases pending against the Moga legislator and the recent issuance of arrest warrants against his son,Akshit Jain,by a Faridkot court under the PAPRA act. On a recent visit to Moga,when asked about Jains criminal cases,Badal said: Till the verdict is not out from the courts,I cannot comment. He also refused to respond to queries of whether Jain is being considered for a portfolio.
Cutting (wrong) ribbon
Employees of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) were caught on the wrong foot when Sukhpal Singh Nannu,former BJP MLA of Ferozepur, went to inspect the progress at the Attari sub-station. He,however,went a step ahead and cut a ribbon to inaugurate the project. The employees were later seen providing explanations with the PSPCL even forced to shoot off a press release clarifying that the project had not been inaugurated and that the former BJP MLA had just held a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Gandhi nerve
The Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana seems to have an Achilles heel the Gandhi family. Every time the media or the Opposition questions projects associated with the Gandhi family,there is a visible disturbance among members of Team Hooda. Be it the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Education Trust or the Robert Vadra land deal,the state government reacts sharply. The chief minister and his team also do the best they can to prevent issues concerning the first family from being raked up: neither inside nor outside the Haryana Vidhan Sabha. Though the Opposition and the states bureaucrats have smelled a rat in both the projects,the government is not ready to part with much information on either of them.
While the CBI court has convicted INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala,his son Ajay Chautala and 54 others on charges of cheating,fraud in the JBT recruitment scam,the Opposition partys fourth generation leaders including Ajay and his brother Abhays sons are still openly announcing that they will commit the same crime again and again if offered a chance to come to power. The party,however,does maintain that it did nothing wrong in recruiting the 3,206 teachers. What INLDs campaign managers seem to forget is that the Delhi Court did not hold its principal leaders guilty for the recruitment,but rather the procedure involved,which the court found was erroneous and corrupt.
The R&R policy
The Haryana governments flagship Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy,popularly known as he R&R policy,has been slammed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). In a recent report,the CAG has highlighted various anomalies and shortcomings in the project. That,however,doesnt seem to deter Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda from using it to the benefit of his near and dear ones. Besides having rehabilitated a number of retired staff members in his own office,the chief minister has rewarded numerous bureaucrats and police officers with post-retirement jobs. The buzz in the states bureaucratic circles is that a few more top IAS officers including P K Chaudhery,Chhatar Singh and MDU Vice-Chancellor Dr R P Hooda,among others due to retire,are in line for cushy post-retirement postings.
The Punjab government officials are facing tough time in getting their replies vetted at the Punjab Advocate Generals (AG) office these days. Replies,to cases against the state government in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,can only be filed after they are vetted by government law officers. The procedure,lower rung officials say,has become an uphill one as they are simply shooed away and in cases of replies pertaining to contempt petitions,one official of the rank of Additional Advocate General reportedly refused to vet saying: Eh koi reply hai,lagda e Sahib nu jail bhej ke rahoge (Is this a reply? It appears you will not rest until your boss is behind the bars). In many cases,it is learnt,different law officers appear on different dates in the same case – in detriment to the government interests. All this has prompted some officials to admit that it would be better if their departments are allowed to have a panel of private advocates as in the case of nationalised banks,given the kind of harassment they face.
Union Minister for Railways Pawan Bansal has devised a unique manner of detecting problems in the wide network of trains across the country. He asks people not connected to the Railways to travel on any particular train. The person then gives him feedback about the conditions prevailing on board. The officers are then questioned on the flaws and improvements in the conditions are sought. Since Bansal took charge of the Ministry,train caterers have paid a heavy price with fines amounting to lakhs of rupees having been imposed on them.
The discussion on the Governors address in the Punjab Assembly became a platform for the SAD-BJP legislators to deliver lengthy speeches. In the wake of the Congress boycott of the session,the ruling party MLAs had the stage to themselves. When the speech of MLA D S Cheema stretched on for more than half an hour,the Deputy Speaker asked him to conclude as he was taking too much time. To this,the MLA replied: But whose time am I taking? There is no one on the other side who has to speak. After this,the legislator further went on to list the achievements of the government.
Kairon-Sukhbir back on track?
With one his brothers-in-law (Bikram Singh Majithia) garnering a fair share of controversies,Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal seems to have decided to strengthen ties with the other Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon. While Sukhbir and Kairon had not even been on talking terms for a few years,they were spotted chit chatting even as the deputy CM maintained a distance from Majithia,when both came to pay obeisance in a Moga temple. Majithia and Badal hardly talked or discussed anything; in stark contrast to earlier times,when the duo would talk incessantly. In the Vidhan Sabha,however,Sukhbir struck up a conversation Kairon. What next ? Watch this column.
Haryana Congress leaders appear to be losing their proximity to 10,Janpath the official residence of party chief Sonia Gandhi one after the other with the lone exception being Union Minister for Social Welfare and Empowerment Selja Kumari. While Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was involved in hectic lobbying following the furore over the CAGs various indictments,particularly regarding the Rajiv Gandhi Trust,his camp was certainly caught by surprise when they realised that Hoodas bete noire Selja was already there at 10,Janpath,with her inputs on the political developments in the state. To make matters worse,party vice-president Rahul Gandhi too did not solely rely on information from the ruling camp and had called leaders from all party factions to take stock of the situation. On the first day Selja did not figure on the Rahul list but she did create her space immediately with a tremendous effort to block the way of Hoodas candidate for the post of state unit chief. Ironically,there was no time to make up the loss as the chief minister had already left Delhi by that time.