Captain’s New Regime…Agaaz To Achha Hai ....Baljit Balli
Dumping VIP culture was actually Manpreet Badal’s agenda, AAP arrived much later
A whiff of fresh air is pervading Punjab’s political and ruling sphere. A positive change is palpable since Capt Amarinder Singh took reins of power in the state. Some clear signals have emanated since March 16, the day Capt Amarinder took oath of the office of Chief Minister and subsequent selection of ministers and his team of bureaucrats.
As compared to his previous 2002-2007 term, he seems to be treading the path in a cool, composed, cautious and a more serious manner. Capt Amarinder seems to be trying to convey that he means business. He has shown himself to be sincere in fulfilling the poll promises. The massive and significant public-interest decisions taken in the first cabinet meeting chaired by him as the Chief Minister on March 18 amply prove this.
The performance and behavior of any leader is determined by the specific time and situation he lives in. With change in time, Capt Amarinder too appears to have changed. He seems to be trying to show his decisions have not been guided by any sense of political vendetta. And that he would not allow himself to be swayed by any political bitterness against even hardcore rivals.
The administrative reshuffling he has brought about too clearly shows this has not been done with any hint of political expediency. His advisor and chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar has played a key role in the selection of his team of officers. The offer of free government accommodation to his predecessor Prakash Singh Badal also points to this changed and better maturity of the mind of a political head of the state. It was Capt Amarinder Singh, who had in the previous tenure, dumped the Act brought in by Badal government to provide government house and other perks to former Chief Ministers.
The decisions of the first cabinet meeting are significant and laudable on two counts. The first: the government has adopted and approved the main clauses of its party’s poll manifesto. It means that now it’s not simply the poll agenda of the Congress but has become the responsibility of the state government to implement it. The second: Capt Amarinder and his ministerial team has tried to convey sincerity of their intentions by taking significant decisions on one go.
The economic, social and political situation and the state of governance in Punjab has reached a juncture where implementation of the cabinet decisions, barring a few of non-financial nature, is very difficult and complicated. For instance, nailing business of drugs, agricultural debt waiver, revving up revenue, dealing with whopping state debt, getting rightful dues of the state from Modi government, to tackle unemployment and putting law and order back on track. Above all, resolving the contentious issue of SYL is another mighty problem.
In the present situation, it would be naïve to expect any charisma from any new political ruling dispensation in the state. But still, if the intention is sincere, relief for public in the form of better governance, is possible though in a limited way in the given situation.
Will VIP culture end ?
The decision to dump VIP culture in itself should be welcomed. Red beacons, foundation stones, hooters and large posse of security guards are clear symbols of this culture. Manpreet Badal had been the most visible example even during the SAD-BJP regime of a leader being above trappings of this culture. He is still explicitly carrying on in the same mode. But emulating him looks not that easy for others. This culture is embedded deeply in the psyche of leaders, bureaucrats as well as masses. The practical way of getting rid of this culture at the level of the government and down to the lower rungs of political leadership is still seen as a serious challenge.
Another point to be mentioned, AAP leaders have credited themselves for being the force behind the cabinet decision of doing away with VIP culture. It is correct that AAP mobilized public opinion and dramatically rose as a third party to create public pressure on this issue but it should be recalled that it was originally Manpreet Badal who had originally come out in 2011 with this agenda for abolishing the VIP culture and set a personal example in practical political life.
This was the important issue of the poll manifesto of the People’s Party of Punjab floated by him before Assembly elections in 2012. There was no AAP government in Delhi at that time. Nor was there any sign of AAP in Punjab then. Even Bhagwant Mann was then the right hand man of Manpreet Badal. So much so, Manpreet had put up this issue before Rahul Gandhi and he agreed with Manpreet to include this agenda in the Congress manifesto for Punjab elections-2017. Anyways, the credit for adopting such agenda, goes to Capt Amarinder Singh known, so far, for his individualistic, royal style of working as a ruler .
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