Many years ago, I was travelling with my family in a bus from Coventry to Birmingham when we had to face racial wrath of England’s drunken soccer fans. Apart from targeting us, they did not hesitate in passing lewd remarks to the ladies in the bus. Amidst this horrific experience, I remember telling my wife that this kind of public misbehaviour would never have happened in Punjab. The Punjabi would have never tolerated this unruly behaviour and he would have stood up for the underprivileged, like us, in such a scenario. Let alone passengers, the bus driver and the conductor would never have allowed such hooliganism in the first place.
In the May of 2015, I stand corrected, given what happened in a bus in Moga. Not only do I stand corrected, but also shaken. Shaken, because the incident happened at a spot where it shouldn’t have. Crime can happen anywhere, but for crime to dare to occur in the chief minister and the deputy chief minister’s family-owned transport is, indeed, disturbing. In other words, crime rather than being scared, felt comfortable and protected in the bus. The staff of Orbit Transport, instead of being extra cautious and responsible on the road, perhaps felt emboldened by the fact that they were employees of the powerful. If such was the attitude, an incident was waiting to happen. For example, last month my sister in-law who was to board a bus from Hoshiarpur, stepped out since the conductor was reeking of alcohol. A friend’s wife who had to board a bus from Chandigarh was rudely told by the conductor that if she wanted to travel, she could sit on the stool between the aisles.
No, I’m not trying to give bad advertisement to Orbit since such complaints are aplenty on the deputy CM's Facebook page, but these incidents should awaken the government to the fact that how it was spending crores on creating a positive perception for itself and how its own people had been undoing it for them. On the contrary, if the Orbit conductors and drivers had been courteous and disciplined on the road, the same Orbit fleet could have been turned round into a great PR exercise for the ruling family. Imagine the number of people that could be reached out in a day!
The belief that perception management is the panacea in politics is an illusion, especially for a long term political player. This has been my matter of debate with many Akali leaders and supporters that perception is built through trust and not by image makeover companies or newspaper advertisements. Trust happens only when the government of the day walks the talk. Being laggard in walking the talk creates a trust deficit and it only takes one incident like the one in Moga for all theories of spin doctors to crash.
It also brings to nil any good work or reforms the government might have brought in.
Given the fresh circumstances the deputy chief minister might want to revisit his entire Punjab plan, since adaptability, evolving and the pace of it is the key to success in the 21st century. I know it is very easy to comment but difficult to implement, but I say this because among the Gen Next leaders of Punjab the deputy CM perhaps has the biggest stake. In the deeply rooted dynastic politics of Punjab, he is the only one amongst the kith and kin of Punjab’s political stalwarts who has been able to show maximum commitment to politics and create a political space for himself. He cannot afford another Moga, and neither can Punjab.