Before the 2012 assembly elections swung in favour of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance, giving it a historic second coming, it made a raft of promises, describing them as "a stunning range of initiatives to revolutionise infrastructure, health, education, agriculture and employment".
Those promises are now proving to be a headache - as is evident from an appraisal of the third year of the Badal government that has now been at the helm of Punjab for eight years. Measured up against execution, the SAD's glossypaged manifesto reads more like a laundry list of promises - either half-kept or unkept.
At its midterm, one expected the government to go full throttle to infuse new life into Punjab's sputtering economy. Instead, it was bogged down by a litany of crises - the Lok Sabha poll setback, drugs, and the gurdwara panel in Haryana. The worsening alliance animus not only sapped the government's energies, but it also obviated its focus on development. Call it power fatigue or midterm blues, the government appears to have run out of steam - and big-ticket ideas.
There are a few bright spots, though. Among the notable are: A policy on government selling subsidised sand and gravel, success in the war against drugs, a big push to solar power, and rebound on the fiscal front. Also, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal ticked a couple of right boxes on the revenue and infrastructure front. High on his to-do list is the promise to introduce 206 public services under one roof by August which , if implemented, could revolutionise citizen-centric governance.Yet, the overall performance of the 18-minister Cabinet - as the score cards show - leaves much to be desired. The question is not what the government has achieved so far, but what it could have with the right focus and determination.
Punjab’s chief lobbyist
Parkash Singh Badal, chief minister
Portfolios: Personnel, general admn, cooperation, science, technology & environment, vigilance, civil aviation.
Promise: World-class memorials to pay tributes to spiritual and social icons, drug de-addiction centres, cancer hospitals, sewa kendras.
High point: Dozen-odd commemorative memorials were set up on spiritual leaders such as Valmiki, Ravidass and Swami Vivekananda, besides the foundation-stone laying of museum on freedom struggle. Set up twenty-one counselling and rehabilitation centres - with 50 beds each- where over three lakh drug addicts were treated. Pushed cancer hospitals in private sector, successfully lobbied for an AIIMS and IIM for Punjab.
Low point: When Haryana gurdwara panel was formed, Badal had to retreat despite his strident stand. The Modi govt gave a lukewarm response to many of his demands.
In assembly: Meticulous in his home work, Badal revels in logical answers to the Opposition and ensures that Congress leaders, while speaking, are not interrupted by the treasury benches. A canny consensenus builder.
Controversy: The SAD-BJP relations nosedived during the Haryana assembly elections. The central BJP leadership slammed the SAD for supporting the INLD. As a result, Badal was apparently sidelined during the swearing-in ceremony of the Haryana cabinet led by Manohar Lal Khattar at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
By the way: Badal reads newspapers in detail and maintains a record of important reports for follow-up action.
Madan Mohan Mittal
Portfolio: Industries & commerce, tech edu,& parliamentary affairs.
Promise: Special package for traditional and small-scale industries, agro-industry SEZ in border and Kandi areas, trade fair grounds and infrastructure in Ludhiana and Mohali.
High point: Clearances for new industrial project in a single room; opened some govt mines and initiated a public-friendly policy to sell sand at subsidised rates that checked exhorbitant prices of sand.
Punjab skill development mission institutionalised and syllabus of technical subjects upgraded.
Low point: Mittal failed to keep up promises on special packages for Punjab industry and agro-industry SEZ. He also couldn’t check illegal mining of sand and gravel. Nor could he provide relief to severely-sick small-scale industry.
In assembly: An influential voice of the BJP, Mittal is belligerant in defending his party and its ally SAD when under attack from the Opposition. His floor management invaribly ends up annoying the opposition.
Controversy: Sparked a row when he publicly upbraided the Ludhiana industrialists for not electing SAD-BJP candidate in the Lok Sabha polls.
By the way: Fond of old movies, especially those starring Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra and Sunil Dutt.
Minds his own business
Adaish Partap Singh Kairon
Portfolios: Food and civil supplies; information technology.
Promise: Wheat at Re 1 under atta-dal scheme; entire state to be linked with
broadband connectivity; Mohali, Ludhiana and Amritsar to be IT hubs.
High point: Punjab took a lead in implementing the food security act, while keeping poll dividends of the populist scheme intact for the Badal government by rebranding it as the new atta-dal scheme. He streamlined procurement operations.
Low point: Kairon faced heat over the denial of the cash credit limit instalment for paddy last year. Though talks with the Centre helped release the instalments, the government faced farmers’ ire and some bad press. IT promises yet to take off.
In assembly: Kairon keeps a low profile lest the Opposition targets his food department for alleged irregularities. He lost his composure only when allegations flew thick and fast.
Controversy: The atta-dal scheme came under a cloud owing to outstanding bills of state agencies, fund crunch and enrollment of ‘undeserving beneficiaries’. Accused of conflict of interest in view of his business firms bagging government contracts.
By the way: He can go to any extent to keep his favourite officer, even getting the appointment criteria tweaked, if needed.
Sikandar Singh Maluka
Portfolio: Rural development and panchayats.
Promise: Five-marla free residential plots in villages for landless poor, remodelling of 17,255 village ponds, 17,391 toilets and 58 new panchayat ghars this fiscal.
High point: Policy to provide five marla (125 sq yard) plots to rural households from the village common land notified. Under the Centre’s Indira Awas Yojana, Rs 41 crore allocated this fiscal; Rs 20 crore budgetary provision made for rural toilets and Rs 100 crore for cleaning village ponds.
Low point: Maluka’s wings were clipped last June when he was divested of the education, higher education and languages portfolio after a scam in the purchase of library books for state government schools.
In assembly: Maintains a low profile. While responding to issues, he is polite but firm.
Controversy: To cut corruption, Maluka took a policy decision to hold audits of funds given to panchayats. This set off a political storm but the minister didn’t budge and audits are being conducted.
By the way: He started his career as a sarpanch at his native Maluka village and is today the panchayats minister.
Surjit Kumar Jyani
Promise: Free medical care up to Rs 2 lakh for blue-card holders, pensioners and farmers having a land up to five acres; revamp of health services, including trauma centres in all districts; amount of CM Cancer relief fund to be doubled; super-specialty hospitals in Majha, Doaba and Malwa for cancer research and treatment.
Performance: Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojana launched but enrolled blue-card holders only entitled to cashless healthcare facilities up to Rs 30,000 per family; 270 basic medicines available at govt hospitals and infrastructure too has been upgraded, but trauma centres yet to come up. No super-specialty hospital on cancer in Majha and Doaba.
High point: Cleanliness, punctuality and availability of medicines in hospitals has improved, and so has the registration in OPD and IPD.
Low point: En masse resignations by doctors and failure to recruit specialists and end private practice. Failed to rein in errant bureaucrats.
In assembly: Lacklustre performance; even the Opposition rarely targets him.
Controversy: Gave self-styled inspection teams a free hand to conduct checks in hospitals. When drug addicts made a beeline for rehab, his department faced the flak for lack of psychiatrists and infrastructure.
By the way: Jyani still loves to drive a tractor in the field.
Bhagat Chunni Lal
Portfolio: Forest, wildlife and labour.
Promise: To set up employees’ and pensioners’ welfare board.
High point: National labour projects in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar functional; construction workers’ welfare board set up; tree plantation on 3,000 hectares; de-centralised approval of building plan for industry; nod for 109 wood-based units; and state forest research institute under construction in Ludhiana. Put his footdown against a move to dilute his powers by setting up an authority to check water logging.
Low point: At one point, the BJP high command tagged him as ‘deadwood’ and wanted to remove him as leader of party’s legislative group . But he managed to stay on with change of guard at the organisational level.
In assembly: Mostly silent despite being the leader of the BJP’s legislative group. Rarely targetted by opposition.
By the way: Fond of trout fish. Sukhbir Badal often jokingly teases him to go abroad for massage.
Ajit Singh Kohar
Portfolio: Transport, legal and legislative affairs, elections, employment generation and training.
Promise: All public transport buses to be air-conditioned, including fleet of Pepsu and Punbus. AC bus stands in major cities.
High point: More than 24 AC buses were bought by Pepsu and Punbus. Private transport operators are major stakeholders in the state’s transport sector. They are owned by political bigwigs, including deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Low point: Both Pepsu and Punbus are making losses and struggling to pay staff salary and release retirement benefits. The AC bus stand promise has not moved beyond the manifesto.
Bureaucrats in the transport department toe the line of Sukhbir Badal, while Kohar has been reduced to a rubber stamp minister.
In assembly: He is the least heard minister in the assembly.
By the way: Kohar’s highest educational qualification is “under middle”.
Below the mark
Portfolio: Higher education, water supply and sanitation.
Promise: To open 17 degree colleges, six universities, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Indian Institute of Nano-technology besides a national agri-food bio-technology institute. Also promised potable water supply and sanitation in all villages.
High point: Sanction has been given to recruit 484 lecturers this financial year to fill over 1,900 vacancies. Four private universities came up this year. The state got Rs 221 crore sanctioned under the Rashtriya Uchattam Shiksha Abhiyan for infrastructure upgrade. An aeronautical engineering college in Patiala and an arts and sports college in Jalandhar are in the pipeline.
Low point: Non-payment of salaries to private government-aided colleges remains a challenge. Even after the recent Rs 200-crore package, 48 colleges have a backlog ranging from six months to a year with regard to payment of salaries.
In Assembly: Keeps a low profile and not vocal.
By the way: A frequent flier, he unwinds on high-end yachts across the globe.
Parminder Singh Dhindsa
Portfolios: Finance and planning.
Promise: will annual plan size performance up to 90%, and rein in the revenue and fiscal deficit.
High point: Dhindsa could at least ensure that the state govt employees got salary and legislators their fuel/travel reimbursements. “It was a day-to-day firefight but I don’t have a magic wand,” he says.
Low point: With Sukhbir caling the shots on finance matters, Dhindsa just played a balance-sheet keeper and remained in his boss’s shadows. As the 14th finance commission spurned Punjab’s case for special package, Dhindsa didn’t hide his frustration. Singularly failed to come up any out-of-the-box fix on slashing expenditure and bolstering revenue.
In assembly: Kept a low profile, though his amiable demeanour makes him chummy with the opposition Congress.
By the way: Goes to the gym thrice a week and on an annual holiday abroad with the family.
Daljit Singh Cheema
Portfolio: School education.
Promise: Adarsh schools in every block, free education and bicycles for girls up to Class 12, knowledge commission besides panel for vocational education and upgrading rural schools.
High point: Launched six model schools offering Dr Hargobind Khurana scholarship scheme for meritorious students. Merged 5,700 primary schools with the education department, taking them out of the purview of PRIs. Updated vocational courses in 100 schools and liaisoned with social security department on ‘anganwadi’ centres.
Low point: Adarsh schools in all 126 blocks far from reality with only 20 of them running so far. With over 25% posts of primary teachers vacant, he continues to face the protests of unemployed teachers. Recommendations of Jindal Commission, which probed the book scam, not implemented.
In assembly: Plays an active role, moving key resolutions and defending the treasury benches from the Opposition’s onslaught.
Controversy: At loggerheads with ministerial colleague Madan Mohan Mittal over political dominance in Rupnagar district.
By the way: The soft-spoken MBBS doctor talks tough when it comes to dealing with crucial policy matters.
First year as minister.
Dreamer in overdriveSukhbir Singh Badal
Portfolios: Home, power, governance reforms, housing and urban development, excise and taxation, investment promotion, sports and youth welfare.
Promise: Power-surplus state, administrative reforms, world-class infrastructure, Metro service in Ludhiana, wi-fi connectivity, security.
High point: Bid to tackle power shortage but power-surplus Punjab still beyond reach. The second generation governance reforms on track. Crackdown on drug smugglers and terror modules busted. Trader-friendly Rahat scheme launched.
Low point: Embarrassingly thin victory margin of wife Harsimrat Kaur in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls signalled a sliding political graph of the Badals on hometurf. Rolled back tough decisions on property tax and tax evasion under BJP pressure.Big-ticket infra projects like Ludhiana Metro still on paper. Industrial investments barely a trickle. Failed to achieve revenue growth target, depriving the state of financial firepower.
In assembly: Tactful while countering the Opposition but he still banks on his father’s crisis management skills.
By the way: Sukhbir prefers a hot water bath even in summer.
Gulzar Singh Ranike
Portfolio: Welfare of SC/BC and animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries
Promise: Free domestic power up to 250 units for Scheduled Caste (SC) population; backward and OBC welfare board to be set up; contract system of ‘safai karamcharis’ to be abolished; and a corpus fund of Rs 20 crore for needy children.
High point: 50% subsidy for women to set up micro dairy units in villages. Ranike turned the annual livestock fair at Muktsar into a national-level livestock expo. He introduced subsidies in the dairy sector and set up fish ponds in waterlogged fields.
Low point: None of the poll promises has been met. The minister has been struggling with staff shortage in both departments. The dilapidated condition of offices at the tehsil level and also the directorate of fishery in Chandigarh is a concern. The minister failed to take up the allotment of five-marla plots to poor SC families with the rural development department. The lack of dumping grounds remains a problem for SC families.
In assembly: Ranike has never initiated any key issue for a discussion. With an exception to the mandatory written replies, he prefers not to respond to supplementary questions.
By the way: Ranike deputes supporters in his constituency to collect wedding invitations or inform him about deaths so that he can visit families.
2013-14: 1 Jail mending jathedar
Sohan Singh Thandal
Portfolio: Jails, tourism, cultural affairs, printing and stationery
Promise: New jails in Amritsar, Bathinda, Nabha, Patiala, Goindwal and Jalandhar. Ram Tirath Mandir in Kartarpur, Guru Ravi Dass Yaadgaar at Kharalgarh, Jang-e-Azadi memorial in Amritsar, repair and renovation of Bhagat Singh House in Khatkar Kalan, commemorative memorials of Chotta and Vadda Ghallughara in Sangrur and Gurdaspur, respectively. Refurbishing Aam Khas Bagh in Fatehgarh Sahib and repairing monuments of erstwhile Patiala state.
High point: Nabha Jail is complete. Eight jails got sniffer dogs and jammers were installed in prisons to stop the misuse of mobile phones. Religious preachers deputed to deliver talks in jails.
Low point: Thandal faces the allegation that he is unable to stop easy supply of drugs in jails. Most promises relating to the preservation of heritage and building new memorials are still at the proposal stage.
In assembly: Thandal is a mute spectator in the assembly and most of the times, he appears disinterested in proceedings.
By the way: The minister lives in his native village of Thandal, where he was born.
First year as minister
Bikram Singh Majithia
Portfolio: Revenue, public relations, renewable energy
Promises: Computerisation of property records, augmenting solar power capacity
High point: Punjab won the best performing state award in building renewable energy capacity this year. After computerisation of property records, revenue department launched e-stamping or online registration of property for transparent and speedy transactions. His ground-breaking initatives checked hassles and corruption.
Low point: Controversy over his alleged links with those arrested in the drug racket has dented his images and continue to dog him. ED summons added to his woes, giving ammunition to the Opposition while putting the government on the backfoot.
In assembly: Known for firefighting for the Shiromani Akali Dal inside the House with his over-the-top remarks, and at times below-the-belt profanities, Majithia kept a low profile after hit by the drug row. Continues to prime target for the Opposition.
By the way: He loves life in the fast lane even as he is a vegetarian and teetotaller.
Patchy performanceJanmeja Singh Sekhon
Portfolio: PWD (B&R), defence services welfare, removal of grievances and welfare of pensioners
Promise: Infrastructure development, all major highways would be four-laned or six-laned.
High point: The construction of highways, railway over-bridges, under-bridges, modern court and administrative complexes in districts.
Low point: Sekhon holds meetings to review progress of projects but this rarely has an impact on the efficiency of officials. The condition of roads in cities is deplorable. The disposal of cases of retired army officers, martyrs, their widows and dependents has been slow largely due to non-availability of funds, which Sekhon has not been able to get from his own government.
In assembly: Not a vocal minister in the House, Sekhon sticks to the answers prepared by his staff. Even when supplementary questions are raised by members, Sekhon seeks more time instead of being prompt to respond.
Controversy: Largely non-controversial, he is media shy and being a relative, toes the line of the Badal family.
By the way: Nurses political rivalry with rural development minister Sikander Singh Maluka in Bathinda as both try to outsmart each other to claim supremacy on west Malwa.
Thorn in Akali fleshAnil Joshi
Portfolios: Local government, medical education and research
Promise: Ludhiana Metro in three years, better civic amenities for all towns and AC buses in cities.
High point: Took on state government on property tax, advance tax on traders and imposition of change-of-land-use charges. Instrumental in slashing VAT on liquor in marriage palaces.
Low point: No new policy initiative to improve civic amenities. Remains largely confined to his constituency in Amritsar. Courted controversies by allegedly beating up laywers. Mired in a murky court case over his alleged double votes. Blasted the Badal regime as ‘ Aurengzeb raj’ after his brother’s clash with Akali workers in civic polls. Continues to a thorn in the Akali flesh.
In assembly: Joshi toes the BJP line. In the last session when SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha claimed he had terror links, Joshi told the CM that such a thing should not happen again in the House.
By the way: He belongs to a family of cloth merchants and owns rice-mills in Tarn Taran.
Sharanjit Singh Dhillon
Promise: Canal system to be upgraded in two years, drip irrigation to be subsidised, tubewell connections to all farmers with less than five acres.
High point: Punjab has got the Centre’s nod for relining the Rajasthan and Sirhind canals for Rs 2,400 crore. Tenders were floated recently. Another project of Rs 820 crore to revamp field channels and streamline canal irrigation, on 50% sharing basis with the Centre, was approved. Around 25,000 tubewell connections were given.
Low Point: Dhillon lacks initiative to procure funds from the state finance department for the repair of canals.
In assembly: He does not join the din and even avoids answering supplementary queries during question hour on the pretext of cross-checking facts.
By the way: Dhillon likes to inspect police stations in his Sanhewal constituency to remain popular among the people. He once got three cops suspended for their absence from police stations.
Rooting for farmers jathedar
Promise: More investment in agriculture sector, free power, crop insurance, crop diversification and skill-oriented education.
High point: The agriculture department distributed 5.35 lakh quintals of subsidised wheat seeds at the onset of the rabi season. It provided stubble-chopping machines at subsidised rates.
Low point: Agriculture in Punjab is surviving due to the personal initiative of farmers and the minimum support price (MSP). The government is unable to do much in crop diversification as in the absence of assured remuneration, farmers stick to crops covered under MSP. The government has failed to give effective crop insurance and also rejected the Centre’s scheme.
In assembly: Tota Singh comes well prepared and never fumbles. He avoids any direct exchange with the Opposition.
Controversy: Shortage of urea in the beginning of the rabi season. He admits private sellers, who are under the supervision of the agriculture department, were to blame. Also, in the recent civic elections, Moga MLA Joginder Pal Jain was given more importance over him and he had to accept the party diktat on the candidate.
By the way: A known Akali face in Moga, Nihalsinghwala, Dharamkot and Baghapurana, he has a good resonance among NRIs.
Past score: First year as minister.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Prabhijit Singh, Manpreet Randhawa, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh