Signals from Punjab could be damaging for Congress
Chandigarh, April 12: When Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar stepped out of the Chief Minister’s Office last evening to protest against his humiliation, the incident only reinforced the perception that the functioning of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh leaves much to be desired. This has to be seen in the earlier volcanic eruption in the top hierarchy in the state police giving the impression that the force stands vertically divided. Both these incidents are rooted in the governance model adopted by Capt Amarinder Singh characterised by his apparent disinterest in running the affairs of the state.
Jakhar was leading a delegation of party MLA to Capt Amarinder Singh with the latest examples of the bureaucrats and police officials continuing to give preference to the Akalis despite the regime change. Nothing much has changed for a section of the Akalis used to crony capital gains.
The issue is not that of taking action against Akali leaders like Bikram Singh Majithia as the state functions under the constitution. The problem is that state apparatus continues to be soft towards Akalis as Capt Amarinder Singh opted for status quo. The Congress leaders who suffered the system during Akali regime were hoping that they would have some say after the ouster of the Akali government.
The impression has gone around, including in the Congress corridors in Delhi, that Punjab has been afflicted by the virus of non-governance. This has happened within first year of this government. Talk to even ordinary people on the street and the answer would be almost the same.
The rebellion at the senior level in the police is also rooted in the decision to maintain status quo. The top level police officials in the state are also from the same background of what has come to be known as the fight against terrorism. The police officers at every level turned into killer machines. They were allowed to make money too. This was besides the huge amount of secret funds at their disposals. Their level of what can be termed as efficiency is almost the same.
One section remained side-lined during the Akali regime and these people were waiting for regime change. The regime changed but they continue to be cornered. There is no precedent of continuity in police having been maintained at the top level after the regime change in the state.
This has been true in the civil administration too as Capt Amarinder Singh preferred his favourite retired bureaucrat to run his government. There is nothing wrong in having a retired bureaucrat as adviser but a new model of governance was introduced under which even the chief secretary feels stifled.
The problem with the Congress is that Punjab is the only state that the party can cite as the model of pro-people and efficient governance. However, that has not happened. Newspapers carried stories of illegal sand mining resorted to by the Congress leaders but nothing happened. The chief minister became aware of the problem only when he was flying over the state and happened to look down from his chopper. This is the only area in which the bureaucrats ‘cooperated’ with the Congress leaders.
Jakhar attended the Bhawanigarh function skipped by Amarinder relating to farmers debt waiver, the fourth in the series. The excuse he tweeted was last minute technical hitch in his flying machine. He could have reached there by road within less than 90 minutes, courtesy the smooth 4-laned road whose construction started during the Akali regime.
According to the knowledgeable sources, Jakhar was very angry at his humiliation. The issue was not just his mobile. Capt Amarinder Singh did not bother as Jakhar kept waiting for about 10 minutes in the CMO. There was no message from Capt Amarinder Singh.
The signals that have gone out during the last couple of days don’t favour the Congress in the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha election and this has been realised at every level.