Manpreet back in the arena
His Peoples Party of Punjab may have failed to open its account in the polls and he himself may have come a distant third in both the seats he contested. However,Manpreet Badal claims to be battle-ready for the forthcoming corporation,panchayat and 2014 parliamentary polls. He will be holding a rally on the first anniversary of his party on March 23,the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh,at the historic Hussainiwala memorial in Ferozepur border. Attributing his partys drubbing to money power of his political opponents,poor organisational structure and weak candidates,Manpreet says that no party wins first polls and they cannot be written off just after their electoral debut.
Though Punjab voted the Akali Dal-BJP government back to power,the new Parkash Singh Badal Cabinet was forced to go for a new look with six ministers facing defeat in the recent polls. Still,the Cabinets list of 16 ministers includes some history-sheeters,of which three have had a stint in jail. Among the 16 is Bibi Jagir Kaur,the lone woman in the Cabinet,who is an accused in the murder of her daughter Harpreet Kaur. The special CBI court in Patiala,in fact,is set to give a verdict in the case soon.
Change of old guard in Cong
After its second poll debacle in a row,battle-weary Congress has gone in for a major rejig in Punjab. Within days of Punjab affairs in charge Gulchain Singh Charak signalling that heads will roll and those responsible for the election defeat will not be spared,Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was replaced with Sunil Jakhar,the son of Congress veteran Balram Jakhar,as the head of the Congress legislature party. The party hopes this will address the alienation of Hindus from it as well as reward Jakhar for his performance within the House the past five years in cornering the government on welfare schemes and policies. But these changes may not prove enough. Some leaders are also demanding removal of Congress state chief Amarinder Singh.
Reward for loyalist officials
Soon after the Akalis record win in Punjab,Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal was quick to reward his trusted lieutenants with top posts. Within hours of swearing-in,controversial former vigilance chief Sumedh Singh Saini was promoted as the new director general of police. Saini has been accused by the Congress of ensuring that witnesses in cases against Badals turned hostile,of killing innocent Sikh youths during militancy and more recently of buying Congress rebels to ensure they played spoilsport in polls. Officers who were lobbying for plum posts with Amarinder Singh before the electoral verdict have also been taken care of by shunting them to comparatively
minor posts. SUKHDEEP KAUR