The move of the Centre to delink the Punjab governor from administrating the union territory of Chandigarh may not have come through but the local political leaders have been pushing for it for several years.
In the morning, the news came that Centre has decided to appoint former bureaucrat and BJP leader KJ Alphons as an independent administrator for Chandigarh. Immediately, politicians cutting across party lines welcomed the development. Not only did they describe it a much-needed move, they also sang paeans for KJ Alphons, who had been conveyed that he would be Chandigarh’s first independent administrator. However, later in the evening, the Centre decided to hold back the orders.
The Centre’s move to have a separate administrator was in line with the long-pending demand of the local politicians.
They have been pushing for restoring the chief commissioner system that existed until May 1984. However, the Centre went a step ahead and appointed a full-fledged administrator.
Under the original system, the chief commissioner — a senior bureaucrat — headed the city while reporting to the ministry of home affairs. Under him were many other secretaries and officers. However, just ahead of the Operation Bluestar in 1984, the Punjab governor was given charge of UT administrator.
The chief commissioner’s post was done away with. Instead, an adviser (again a senior bureaucrat) was appointed who reported to the administrator-cum-governor.
From time to time, the residents of the city and politicians have been demanding that the old system of chief commissionerate be restored.
In April 2005, a delegation comprising Congress councillors had submitted a memorandum to the visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded the administrator’s charge be taken away from the Punjab governor and instead a chief commissioner be appointed.
Similarly, local BJP leaders have been pressing for that system.
“I think it’s a better way to manage the union territory,” says local party president Sanjay Tandon among active supporters of the UT having an independent administrator or chief commissioner.
“No other union territory is linked to another state in the country in this way. Why not have a similar system for Chandigarh as well?”
Those pressing for a separate administrator argue that Punjab governor-cum administrator has a dual responsibility and thus his attention gets divided. Also, in some cases the interests also clash, they claim.
“An exclusive administrator would mean that the man can devote himself completely to Chandigarh,” says BJP senior leader and former MP Satya Pal Jain.
“People have been demanding it and even Haryana has wanted the same.”
Mayor Arun Sood believes that such a system would be the “best initiative by the government for a simple reason that he would be able to dedicate himself to the city and work towards the interests of Chandigarh.”
The apparent abrupt reversal has, meanwhile, given the opposition parties an opportunity to hit out at the government.
“Whether or not it will have benefited Chandigarh is another thing, but this kind of a flip-flop surely reflects poorly on the part of the party in power,” says Pawan Bansal, former MP and Congress leader.