A commission for every omission. A month into power, the Captain Amarinder Singh government has formed a panel for every alleged act of “omission” of the previous Parkash Singh Badal government from drug menace, sacrilege incidents of Guru Granth Sahib to farm debt.
But his party’s tall poll promises are proving to be a millstone around the government’s neck. While drafting the poll manifesto, Manpreet Badal had rustled up space for his idealism along with poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s populism. But as Punjab finance minister, Manpreet is finding the promises hard to keep in view of state’s precarious finances.
So, he, along with Amarinder, tried to humour Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley for a farm debt waiver in the first week after being sworn in on March 16. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has already honoured the promise.
The duo then flew to Mumbai to woo industry honchos to make big-ticket investments in Punjab. While poll promises can wait — no government is expected to fulfil them in its first month — the government could save itself the blushes. Amarinder had declared to end drug menace in Punjab within four weeks of coming to power and catch the “big fish”. But an elderly man died in an anti-drug raid in Muktsar by the police last week, forcing the CM to order an inquiry.
Like in his previous stint, he is again inaccessible to ministers and party leaders, letting his coterie to call the shots --Congress MLA
Yet the intent is more important than the deadline, which makes the Congress government’s start an impressive one. The first cabinet declared sweeping reforms such as 33% reservation for women in government jobs, something that may prove to be a boon in a state with one of the worst sex ratios and ordered no beacons on VIP cars, a diktat it has been able to enforce with a stern hand.
On the rest, Amarinder has made delegation as new name of the game. He has formed panels under eminent persons — one for every promise, a day before it completes one month in power on Sunday. The special task force for drugs was provided a legal framework on Saturday and the panel for farm debt waiver finally got a head — T Haque, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. The policy on “no use of red beacon” too was notified.
On Thursday, a commission was formed to re-investigate sacrilege incidents under former judge Ranjit Singh, the 2010 notification through which Akalis had introduced ‘halqa in-charge’ system for police stations was scrapped and orders issued banning names of ministers on foundation stones and inaugural plaques. The CM also announced no toll tax for mediapersons on highways!
- No red beacons on cars
- Crackdown on drugs
- Notification scrapping halqa in-charge system
- No names of ministers on foundation stones/inaugural plaques
- 33% reservation for women in jobs may improve sex ratio
SLIPS AND FLIP-FLOPS
But the idealism has been dented by flip-flops, controvernot sies and “arrogance” of Congress ministers. So much so that Amarinder had to give a sermon on “being humble with people” to one of his cabinet colleagues. It came after minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot’s video reprimanding a school principal for his name figuring a “poor third” on an inaugural plaque went viral.
Amarinder had earlier publicly opposed Manpreet’s proposed ‘historical memory law’ and admonished another minister, Aruna Chaudhary, after a video on her husband perusing official files sitting in her office grabbed eyeballs. But a public snub for his ministers is one thing and that for a minister of a country is another.
Many in Congress are attributing Amarinder’s own statement against Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan — he has accused him of pro-Khalistan links and refused to meet him — as “arrogance”.
“Amarinder had made a hitlist of people when he was out of power for 10 years. In the first month, he seems to be settling old scores. Like in his previous stint, he is again inaccessible to ministers and party leaders, letting his coterie to call the shots,” said a Congress MLA, requesting anonymity.
Manpreet, too, is finding his preaching difficult to practise. As part of ending ‘VIP culture’, he had denounced use of helicopters for ministers. But on Thursday, Manpreet flew on one to address the Baisakhi celebrations at Talwandi Sabo. “Everyone knew the CM would not be able to attend the conference due to a foot injury. Why didn’t Manpreet plan accordingly and station himself closer to the venue,” SAD MP Balwinder Singh Bhundur has said in a statement.
- Police high-handedness: Death of elderly man in anti-drug raid
- Arrogance of ministers
- Shunning ‘VIP culture’ as per convenience
- Amarinder’s public snub to Canadian minister
- Diluting proposed ‘conflict of interest’ law by keeping out MLAs
BUSINESS OF POWER
Do it like the Akalis. Though the Congress promised a ‘conflict of interest’ legislation to end the stronghold of the ruling elite on liquor, mining, transport, real estate and other businesses, the CM has said the act will not cover MLAs.
Both SAD and Congress MLAs have huge stakes in these businesses and are the moneybags for their parties. The Congress manifesto had put MLAs within the purview of the proposed law.
Congress MLAs Amrik Singh Dhillon — the party’s former treasurer — and Balbir Sidhu have grabbed a lion’s share in liquor contracts awarded by the Congress government.
The Akalis who had earlier monopolised the trade, too, have not been left “high and dry”. As the state prepares to end illegal mining and auction 59 mines later this month, many Congress leaders are already queuing up.
On transport, Amarinder has promised “to end Badal monopoly” on buses. But will that happen when Amarinder has declared no political vendetta against them?