The fresh air of Goa was supposed to rejuvenate the SAD-BJP combine's leaders to produce solutions to Punjab's problems, but all that emerged at the end of their two-day-four-night 'introspection' conclave was lots of air and all stale.
As deputy chief minister and Shiromani
Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal emerged to talk to the media for the first time after another opaque 'vichar manthan' (though-churning) session that lasted barely four hours, he listed the same old problems but no concrete solutions.
Sukhbir, who was accompanied by his father and CM Parkash Singh Badal, had these primary ideas to share: smashing the drug peddling rackets and eradicating corruption through governance reforms. No practical measures mentioned, nor any talk of empowering the Punjab lokpal.
In fact, Sukhbir was insistent that lokpal was not the remedy for corruption. And, he said, "Fighting drugs is priority number one. The state government is immediately going to take very strong steps to fight the drug peddling."
All through the conclave - party-paid vacation, if you may - only two sessions of less than four hours each were held. Terming these "very educative" Sukhbir said the legislators aired views regarding departments and the changes needed. "We had a good, free and fair interaction between the party and the government." Though he repeatedly said that "new ideas were generated", he did not reveal them on the pretext that "we will give them wide shape soon".
Besides the legislators, the over 120-strong delegation comprised several leaders including candidates who lost the assembly polls last year. The group that landed on Sunday would stay the Tuesday night at their beachside Taj luxury hotels before flying back home on Wednesday.
On the expensive conclave being a cruel irony when the state is reeling under debt, he said such sessions were not a new idea: "When the Akali Dal and BJP do anything it is considered a big deal, while it is normal practice in other parties."
'Won't need lokpal'
Though the Punjab lokpal has been asking the state government for workforce and powers, Sukhbir's thrust is on governance reforms, "What we are doing is to change the system so that people don't have to go to the lokpal. Our focus is to cure the disease."
Claiming that "even the union government is studying the Punjab model", he had a suggestion, "The focus of the Centre and other states should also be on administrative reforms. Then there will be no need of this thing (lokayukta)."
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