Thursday 29 October 2020

Congress political thrust in Punjab hit by redundancy of party MLAs

- Posted on 04 April 2019

Chandigarh, April 4: Congress, the party that captured power in Punjab unprecedented mandate in 2017 Assembly elections, is confronted with a peculiar situation in the Lok Sabha polls.

The party MLAs have been reduced to redundancy. This situation is rooted in the governance model introduced by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who turned more of a recluse during his this second term.

It is the MLAs who are supposed to be the interface of the government with the people but the governance model divested them of this role with total dependence on bureaucracy, both serving and retired.

This was pointed out to Capt Amarinder Singh whenever these MLAs individually or in groups got a chance to meet him. This problem has also been accentuated by inaccessibility of Capt Amarinder Singh barring his preferred circle.

Of course, the Congress won all the bye-elections with massive margins but this is beside the point as the Akali Dal was down and out and the Aam Aadmi Party that had  emerged as the main opposition failed to function as cohesive unit and disintegrated over the period.

The redundancy of MLA has left the people to the mercy of bureaucracy.

The people have no window to complain as the Congress MLAs can’t take up their issues even at the district level. The situation is turning pathetic.

The roads are potholed and law and order situation is worsening. Development works at the ground level have been stalled.

It is this situation that is leading to the revival of Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal after having been hit hard by Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the related issue.

The Congress leaders now admit that the political  reality at the grassroots is now different as compared to 2017 despite the emotive issue of sacrilege. Moreover, the Congress overplayed this issue. Punjab is communally highly sensitive despite amity and brotherhood rooted in composite culture.

This redundancy has impacted the Congress yet at another level. The party lacks effective candidates in several seats including Bathinda, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Khadoor Sahib and Anandpur Sahib. Local talent has not been groomed and this is not possible overnight.

 Unlike the Akali Dal, the Congress is still to finalise candidates for these seats. Although no formal announcement has been made, it is almost certain that union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, after initial hesitation, would seek third term from Bathinda and Sukhbir would take the risk of contesting from Ferozepur. It is a calculated risk that they have to take to fully revive the party.

This is mainly due to lack of political thrust that the Congress failed to generate in governance as the MLAs were pushed to the margins.

The perception in the state is that the officials in transport department in the state respond more to Sukhbir Singh Badal than the transport minister and this is in public domain. This is just one example. Ask people in the state transport department and they provide all the details. Capt Amarinder Singh has miserably failed to rein in transport mafia. Here was one issue on which he could have given out a strong signal.

Punjab has the unique distinction of the chief minister rarely going to the sprawling office in the Punjab civil secretariat. Of course this started during 2012-2017 tenure of Parkash Singh Badal. Then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal too functioned from home, either in Chandigarh or Delhi. The only difference is on the issue of conveying political message. Badals faced humiliating defeat due to other reasons.

He might have given free hand to his cabinet colleagues but issue here is that is political thrust to governance.

Punjab should have functional participatory democracy.

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