Amarinder Govt @1: CM Cannot Take People’s Goodwill for Granted
As it gears up to celebrate its first anniversary in power, the Punjab government will need to put in extra effort.
A week before the first anniversary of the Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab, its public relations (PR) department bombarded media with aerial photographs and press releases, admiring his prompt action against the mining mafia in the state.
Photographs taken from a helicopter he was riding showed trucks parked along a river bed. The release indicated that an enraged chief minister ordered an immediate raid and arrest of the alleged culprits. The state machinery swung into action, nabbed them and seized the trucks.
Captain’s Disconnect With Ground Reality
Ironically, the official release and the photographs turned out to be just the evidence of what’s going wrong with the government. It took an aerial detection of illegal mining, and not the government machinery on the ground, to initiate action against something that was an open secret. It also reflected the disconnect Capt Amarinder Singh, who hardly ventures out to take to the roads, has with ground reality.
That contrasts with the style of functioning of his senior and arch rival in politics, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who never missed an opportunity to travel and meet people. In his last couple of terms he had left governance to his son and the then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Capt Amarinder Singh has no such luxury or inclination to blindly leave governance to any of his party leaders. He has quite a few vying to take his place. Former state party president Partap Singh Bajwa is one of those waiting in the flanks.
The motormouth cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Sidhu is forever bent on embarrassing the government while his Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal is biding his time.
Inheriting a ‘Rotting’ Legacy
That’s one big reason why he has been depending on officers for governance. He has delegated powers to senior officers and has been claiming that his job was only to set policy and give directions while it was for the bureaucracy to implement or perish.
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He had displayed similar traits during his first stint as chief minister between 2002 and 2007. One of the biggest grouses against him had been his dependence on a coterie which controlled information and access to him. Unfortunately, despite the fact that a part of the old coterie has been asked to lie low, it continues to hold sway.
But Capt Amarinder Singh appears to have taken some lessons from the past and is keeping a closer watch on the functioning of the government. Although a year may be too short a period to judge his performance, it must go to his credit that he appears to be making a sincere effort vis-a-vis his previous tenure.
Those closely associated with him stress that it was taking too much of the present government’s time to set right the rot set in every institution and wing of the government by the previous regime.
“The decade-long rule of the Akali-BJP government had severely damaged or diluted the systems,” said a close confidante of the chief minister. Giving instances, he said that the Budget was being violated more than being followed, and huge funds were squandered away without maintaining records. He added that mediocrity ruled appointments to various important offices, including constitutional offices, and the current government must bear the legacy.
Development at Snail-Pace
Yet it must be said that although the progress so far is slow and the government is yet to come to grips with myriad problems, some efforts are being made to tackle issues. The chief minister had vowed to ‘finish’ the problem of drug menace in the state within a month of taking over.
It was a promise which was taken with a huge pinch of salt, and the problem is far from over. Yet he has got an efficient officer and has set up a specialised cell to check the problem. Hundreds of drug peddlers and addicts have been nabbed but it would require a sustained effort and spread of awareness to take control of the situation.
Among the other major issues in the state, the huge unemployment problem continues despite a few “job melas” being organised where thousands were claimed to have been provided jobs. Again the claims are seen with suspicion as little has been done to generate employment.
One of the most important sections of the society, the farmers, continue to face hardships and little has been done to reduce farm distress. The promised complete loan waiver has not yet been announced and there have been several instances of farmers committing suicide due to failure to repay loans.
The government however deserves credit for tracking down and tackling major gangs in the state which had emerged as the new faces of terror.
Capt Amarinder Singh and his government continues to enjoy public goodwill despite the claims of the SAD and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which is now the principal Opposition party. The chief minister, however, cannot afford to take the goodwill for granted and shall have to put in extra effort on the ground to meet the expectations of the public that elected him amid a string of defeats for the Congress across the country.
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Chandigarh. He can be reached @vipinpubby. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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