Capt Amarinder government: Of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, not for Congressmen
Chandigarh: The Congressmen in Punjab are still to identify themselves with the government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh in the state that was formed by the Congress more than two and a half years ago in February 2017 elections. Ironically, Punjab is the only state where the Congress performed well in May 2019 Lok Sabha elections despite the alienation of the Congressmen from their own government.
That it is not their government even after more than two and a half years is reflected in the observation of none other but state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar who has been quoted by the Hindustan Times today whereby he has stated, “Bureaucracy has to be made accountable. They (bureaucrats) have been creating problems from time to time and bringing a bad name to the government. It is high time this is stopped”.
Jakhar has only reinforced the perception at the ground level that this is the government of the bureaucrats and by the bureaucrats who care two hoots for Congressmen but continue to oblige some Akali strongmen.
The general perception in Punjab is that in case of tiff between the minister and the bureaucrat, it is the minister whose portfolio is shifted.
This issue has cropped up every time Capt Amarinder Singh interacted with the Congress Legislature Party. It was due to the dissent building up that he accommodated six of them as his advisers. However, it is too well known that no chief minister in Punjab has ever sought the advice of his own advisers.
The latest provocation is the tiff between the Congress MLAs and some bureaucrats posted in Patiala, the home town of Capt Amarinder Singh. The Congress leaders have gone to the extent of leveling allegations of their phones being tapped. Normally, such allegations are leveled by the opposition.
The problem seems to be rooted in the governance model that he introduced this time. Capt Amarinder Singh is former Maharaja of Patiala and his model is ‘Maharaja Model’. Maharaja used to function normally through one person.
The bureaucrats who had been side-lined during 10-year rule of the Akali Dal were waiting to be rehabilitated but they were ignored again. This is one reason that a section of the bureaucrats continue to accommodate the Akali strongmen.
Navjot Singh Sidhu had to pay the cost when he leveled the allegation of Amarinder-Badals mix up at strategically wrong time on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections and that too in Bathinda. Time and space are important dimensions of political strategy and Sidhu lacked that.
The Congress had made several promises in its election manifesto like checking illegal plying of buses and ending monopoly of cable operations. These are just two examples. Both these operations are dominated by the Akalis.
Jakhar is considered close to Capt Amarinder Singh but despite that, he has voiced the anguish of his party men who continue to perceive this government to be of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for a section of the Akalis.
But then Capt Amarinder Singh rarely interacts with his MLAs.
Under the model of governance introduced in Punjab when Parkash Singh Badal was the chief minister, the office of the chief minister in the civil secretariat remains deserted. The chief minister functions from his residence. One more bungalow was added to the chief minister’s residential complex by Capt Amarinder Singh this time. And this is the most fortified area in Chandigarh where even MLAs don’t enter without permission.
There was the time when the chief minister would attend office in the secretariat regularly and interact with people.
Change is the law of nature but this change is anti-people. Can Capt Amarinder Singh tame his bureaucracy even at this stage?
It is perhaps due to this model that the administration is turning transparently corrupt.