“Continuity with speed”. That’s how Sukhbir Singh Badal had flagged his challenges soon after the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party’s stunning comeback to power in March.
Three months on, the deputy CM, who fancies himself as the ‘CEO’ of Punjab, has little to write home about.
A series of high-voltage controversies — the Balwant Singh Rajoana case, the Operation Bluestar memorial and the cow slaughter outrage — have drowned out the right noises the government has made so far.
It defies logic how the SAD, which had long cast away its ‘Panth-in-peril’ slogan to pitch itself as the prime guarantor of social harmony in Punjab, allowed itself to be manipulated by the radical fringe that has been hell bent upon reviving the tragic past in the Rajoana and Operation Bluestar cases. These emotive and divisive issues have sharply polarised Punjab polity.
As if this was not bad enough, the SAD also faced the ignominy of two of its senior ministers —Bibi Jagir Kaur and Tota Singh — getting convicted on abduction and corruption charges. The alliance did re-establish its hold on the civic bodies, but the victory was blighted by violence and blatant poll irregularities. There is little evidence of hardcore policy decisions. Even in its maiden budget presented on Thursday, the ruling coalition failed to break out of the populist mould.
While Sukhbir has pegged his turnaround strategy on big-ticket infrastructure projects, most of his projects are delayed or hit by resource crunch. Even the governance reforms that Sukhbir had pushed during his first term appear to be losing steam.
The Badal government has spent most of its first 100 days firefighting on issues that could bedevil Punjab’s hard-earned peace. It’s time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal lets his actions speak louder than his emotional homilies.