Chandigarh Confidentialhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/chandigarh-confidential-8/

Chandigarh Confidential

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha had a hilarious session last week when Cabinet Minister Chunni Lal Bhagat read out an answer to a query regarding the cleaning of Budda Nalla in Ludhiana.

Language barriers

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha had a hilarious session last week when Cabinet Minister Chunni Lal Bhagat read out an answer to a query regarding the cleaning of Budda Nalla in Ludhiana. The minister,who is adept at Urdu,had a tough time reading Punjabi. The Speaker,however,kept encouraging him through the answer by helping him with a word and a sentence,here and there.

Let it be

The absence of Congress MLAs inside the Punjab Assembly ensured that the ruling SAD-BJP MLAs had a rather smooth budget session. A woman SAD legislator was busy preparing a statement,she had to make in the House. Surprised at its brevity,she asked her PA if there was a need to prolong it. “It doesn’t matter what you say madam,there is no Opposition in the house to raise any objection. Let it be,” was the PA’s advice.

Cross-firing within Cong

Even as the Opposition Congress was fighting the ruling alliance by holding mock sessions outside the Assembly complex in Punjab,there was a hint of dissent within the party. The CLP office claimed that attendance was better in the mock sessions than when the Congress was present inside. The numbers fell when new state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa appointed 13 MLAs to overlook arrangements for his coronation. What began as murmurs of dissent snow-balled into open display of loyalties on Bajwa’s coronation day.

Lunch-dinner diplomacy

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As both the Opposition and the ruling alliance competed for headlines in Punjab,journalists had a field day — receiving invites for lunches and dinners from both sides. While new Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa indulged scribes at the CGA Golf Range,the government was quick to host them at the Taj,on the day of the Assembly ruckus. There is yet another lunch invite for Monday,this time,from Finance Minister Parminder Dhindsa,before the session ends. Scribes,who had to cover both the House proceedings and the mock sessions outside,are not complaining.

Candid Vij

The BJP’s Anil Vij figured in a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report for making a double claim on account of his travels. It was later found that the discrepancy was due to a clerical error. Vij said that he was away in Lucknow for a party meeting when there was a meeting in Chandigarh as well. “The clerk made my cash claim though I was marked absent in the book. Hence,the double claim. I,however,deposited Rs 21,000 back to the Vidhan Sabha. I am sure that the CAG would have avoided this mention if they were informed about it,” Vij,known for his straight forward stance on various issues against the government,said.

Who next?

With the Supreme Court clearing the name of Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri for elevation to the apex court,all eyes are set on his successor as Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. First puisne Judge of Delhi High Court,Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul is reportedly the frontrunner. Justice Sikri’s name was cleared by the Supreme Court collegium last week. Sources say that the formal process for elevation to the apex court may not take more than three weeks.

Behind every elected woman…

A recent meeting of councillors at the Amritsar Municipal Corporation saw a number of women members turn up with their husbands. Sitting right behind the women councillors were their husbands,closely monitoring House proceedings and even giving the impression that they were the ones calling the shots. One wonders if women empowerment could really be achieved with husbands following their wives like shadows in such representative bodies.

Cyber soup

At least three pictures and a 1.31 minute long video clip,allegedly featuring two senior Congress leaders and a former Haryana Minister in objectionable poses,are being widely circulated on the internet these days. While the authenticity of these pictures and mails are yet to be ascertained,the opposition has already opened a front against the ruling Congress and has demanded a thorough probe by an independent investigating agency. The Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala even went to the extent of announcing it in public and calling for the Congress leaders to be exposed. This,however,is not the first time that the three Congress leaders are in a cyber soup — similar pictures featuring them had found their way to the internet in February 2009 as well. A formal complaint was lodged by the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee’s office secretary Mahinder Singh. The Chandigarh Police’s Cyber Cell has conducted a preliminary inquiry and concluded that the mails had originated in Egypt. The Congress,in February 2009,had claimed that the pictures were morphed.

Jee Aaya Nu

For all his troubles with his own Jat community,Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda seems to have won over Jat Sikhs in Haryana: by first granting them 10 per cent reservation and then adopting a new lingo while welcoming them at his residence. “Jee Aaya Nu (I welcome you all),” the chief minister said to the Jat Sikh community,who were at his residence to thank him for including them in the Special Backward Classes and granting them reservation. For a few minutes,Hooda even spoke to the gathering in Punjabi and exclaimed: “Jats and Sikhs are two sons of a mother”. If only Hooda had the same success with his own community members,who are camping in Delhi and protesting against the union and state governments on the same reservation issue.

Appeasement strategy

With the principal Haryana Opposition leaders,INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala,behind bars after being convicted by a Delhi court,the ruling Congress has turned its focus on the state’s bureaucrats,known to have strong affiliations towards the Chautalas. A few of the officers were recently given significant postings as a part of the government’s strategy to pull them towards it. “These are political strategies. Such officers are now being considered for good postings to ensure that the Opposition becomes totally defunct. As such in the absence of their leaders,if the Opposition do not get bureaucratic support,they are bound to fall flat,” a senior officer quipped.

Security blues

The Ludhiana mayor,a die-hard SAD loyalist,bore the brunt of the stringent security arrangements for Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal during a recent ceremony anointing Hira Singh Gabaria as the chairman of district planning committee. Mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria,known for having planted 86 saplings in Ludhiana to mark Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s birthday,was not allowed to enter the function by policemen outside. It was only after Commissioner of Police Ishwar Singh himself came out and saw the Mayor trying to convince security personnel that he immediately let the latter in.

No laddoos,please

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal seems to be diet conscious these days,particularly when it comes to laddoos. At the same ceremony,Gabria offered laddoos to Sukhbir,which the deputy chief minister refused but in his attempt to put them away,he caused the laddoos to fall. Quickly realising that the move hadn’t gone down too well with his party colleague,the deputy chief minister asked Gabria to pose for a picture with the latter offering him a laddoo. Once the shutterbugs had captured the moment,the laddoo was quietly consigned back to the sweet box.

Tongue-tied

A reporter had Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal literally tongue-tied at a recent press conference prompting Sukhbir to tide over the query through silence. It began with the reporter stating that the recently constructed underpasses in Ludhiana were proving to be a wastage of money as people hardly used them. “My work is to spend money and get the underpasses constructed. Rest is on the people,” the deputy CM replied. Contrary to Sukhbir’s expectations,however,the reporter retorted: “Money belongs to the public and needs to be used intelligently.” After that,silence.

No use!

CONGRESS General Secretary and the incharge of party affairs in Haryana,B K Hariprasad,made it all the way from Delhi to settle the turmoil in the state cadre but there was no one to take him seriously. Reason: Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda could not make it to the meeting. It seems to have slipped out of everyone’s mind that the meeting clashed with President Pranab Mukherjee visit to a university in Sonepat. Protocol demanded the chief minister’s presence in Sonepat and was also true for many other leaders,who seemed to any way prefer the President’s venue than the Congress meeting. All this left Hariprasad to bear the brunt of the peeved district units,filled with many Hooda detractors. “Ke fayda hona tha,bhai sahib,Hariprasad ko to sub vera per in ne aaj tak kuch kiya? (It would not have been of any use to attend the meeting. Hariprasad knows everything already but has he ever done anything to settle it?),” rued a Congress leader while explaining at length the irrelevance of the meeting.

Lobbying begins for PS to CM

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With senior Haryana IAS officer Chhatar Singh set to retire on March 31,this year,there is a scramble among the state bureaucrats for the most coveted post of principal secretary to the chief minister. Those in the fray include S S Dhillon,K K Khandelwal,Y S Malik,Ashok Lavasa and K K Jalan. The chances of senior Haryana IAS officer Ashok Lavasa,who is posted as an additional secretary at the Centre,are slim while Khandelwal,who has remained in the Chief Minister’s Office for the last six years,has better prospects. Though Jalan and Dhillon are also considered quite close to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda,but his coterie of trusted lieutenants consist of Malik and Khandelwal at the top. The buzz in the bureaucratic circles is that the competition,for the much sought-after post,will be between Khandelwal,Malik and Dhillon. The final decision lies with the chief minister,who is likely to announce Chhatar Singh’s successor in the last week of this month. And going by the precedent,the Hooda-led Congress government is also likely to rehabilitate Chhatar Singh with a plum post-retirement assignment.