Often being labelled as a ‘constituency minister’, housing, horticulture, culture, youth services and sports minister Raman Bhalla, however, redeemed himself at the fag end of his stint when he along with Jammu-based ministers took tougher stand against an alleged discrimination with the Jammu region.
Bhalla remained minister for six years in the government. Bhalla, a two-time MLAs, has often been accused of being a constituency-centric minister rather than a minister of the entire state. He is also labelled as ribbon-cutting minister, laying foundation stones of various development works, especially in Gandhi Nagar on almost daily basis.
Though a senior Congress leader, Bhalla remained more focused on his constituency Gandhi Nagar. Earlier, he headed the revenue and relief ministry.
He could not bring out the desired change in the revenue department perceived as the most corrupt department, where the patwaris rule the roost and it is impossible to get alteration or incorporation in land records without palming the grease.
Though the construction work of the Jagti satellite town for Kashmiri Pandit migrants started long back, it was during Bhalla’s tenure the work was put on fast pace. The Jagti camp houses around 4,000 flats and was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Manhohan Singh in 2011.
Earlier, the cabinet approved financial package for one-time settlement of the displaced persons, but it was Raman Bhalla as revenue minister who speeded up the issue and formulated the rehabilitation plan.
In July this year, Bhalla along with Jammu-based party colleagues walked out of the cabinet meet, when the issue did not come up for discussion as it was assured by the chief minister in earlier cabinet meet.
He had won the last election by a narrow margin, when the state was politically-polarised after the Amarnath land row. In 2008 elections, he had almost conceded defeat and it was after counting of many rounds he took lead over the BJP rival. He won because of connectivity and accessibility to voters.
Gandhi Nagar is a mix of semi-urban and urban constituency and it is one the posh constituencies of Jammu. Mostly urban, it spreads in a radius of 10 km.
Like other cabinet colleagues, he focused solely on his constituency. New drains and bylanes were constructed in last six years. There was improvement in power and water supply. In 2013, chief minister Omar Abdullah while laying foundation of the rehabilitation and channelisation of storm water drainage system at Channi Himmat in the Gandhi Nagar constituency, had praised Bhalla saying he gives full attention to the development of his constituency. “The day will not be far off when there will be no further development demand in this constituency”, Omar had said in a lighter vein. Raman Bhalla holds a good repo with sizeable Sikh community in his constituency.
Being a cultural minister of the state, Bhalla was not able to come to the expectations of the artists of the state since the only cultural hub in the state ‘Abhinav Theatre’ in Jammu remained in shambles.
Bhalla holds huge clout in his area. He is one of the strongest congress leaders of the Jammu region. In the parliamentary elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party won in his constituency with huge chunk of votes, but in the assembly elections, the issues will be different. Many a time people vote differently in assembly polls that what they do during the parliamentary polls. It is his people to people contact which may see him through this time also despite the odds against the Congress.