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Shock therapist

chandigarh Updated: Mar 15, 2014 18:54 IST
Hindustan Times

Shock therapist

Health and family welfare

Surjit Kumar Jyani, 58, Class 9

He joined the Rashtriya Syamsewak Sangh (RSS) at a young age and was fielded by the BJP from Fazilka in 1997. As MLA, he put his own government in a quandary by going on a fast to get district status for Fazilka. It paved the way for his re-election in 2012 and a ministerial berth. He remained forest minister before getting the health portfolio instead. A rustic politician, he is known for his plain-speak. But some also call him impractical for suggesting solutions that are not just pragmatic, at times bordering on the ridiculous.

PROMISES: Soon after taking over as health minister, he announced that civil surgeons and senior medical officers would be held responsible if a government doctor is found doing private practice. He promised clean hospitals, availability of quality medicines at affordable rates and no erratic transfers.

PERFORMANCE: Transfer-related woes of health officials continue. He formed committees to check private practice under CPS Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, but it has not made any recommendations. His attempts to ensure cleanliness and beautification of hospitals are visible on the ground. His department launched Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojana, a cashless health insurance scheme for poor families, to give services of up to Rs 30,000 yearly. But, during his stint as forest minister before the September reshuffle, the mining mafia continued its plunder of forestland.

Deputed squads to conduct surprise checks in hospitals for availability of quality medicines, and cleanliness

CONTROVERSIES: Among all BJP ministers, he is the least controversial. However, sting operations by his personal team have led to some heartburn. Score: 6. last year score: 6

Lost in the woods

Forests and wildlife

Chunni Lal Bhagat, 81, class 10

The BJP’s old warhorse from Jalandhar, Bhagat became an MLA the first time from Jalandhar South in 1997. He won again in 2007 but got no cabinet berth. Being the oldest MLA in BJP ranks, he was given the important local bodies department after his victory in 2012. But too old to perform or even understand the nuances of his department, he was pushed into political oblivion during the cabinet reshuffle as forests and wildlife, and labour minister. Politically, he is the BJP’s Dalit face in Doaba, but his department officials just take his customary approval on decisions. His clout within the party and government is waning with age.

PROMISES: ‘Greening Punjab’ and promoting agro-forestry were the two slogans he got in legacy from his predecessor Surjit Kumar Jyani after the reshuffle in September.

PERFORMANCE: An aging Bhagat failed to perform both as the local bodies minister and as forest and labour minister. All major decisions, such as regularising illegal colonies, levying property tax or starting urban projects, were taken by deputy CM Sukhbir. As forest minister, he remains in the wilderness with even the Greening Punjab project not taking off owing to lack of funds.

LOW POINT: In cabinet as a rubberstamp and Dalit face.

CONTROVERSIES: Was in trouble as local bodies minister over his incapacity to understand the work and his son calling the shots, allegedly even signing files for him. Score: 0. Last year score: 0

In deep waters


Janmeja Singh Sekhon, 68, Class 12

A close relative of CM Badal, Sekhon enjoys a coveted position in the SAD, and was handpicked to counter PPP president Manpreet Badal, the CM’s rebel nephew, successfully from Maur in the 2012 polls. He became MLA for the first time on the SAD ticket in 1997 from Ferozepur Cantonment segment. His win in 2007 catapulted him to the cabinet as irrigation minister, a portfolio he retained in the regime’s repeat term. A silent operator, Sekhon is more a politician looking after the interests of Akalis in the hinterland of Malwa than a minister. Silent at cabinet meetings, he believes in conveying his message to officials and partymates by signaling orders from the top.

PROMISES: Tackling the problem of water-logging in the Malwa region; revamp of canal network, and improving supply of canal water for irrigation.
Performance: The floods last year in Muktsar district exposed his claims of tackling the problem. The canal network is still awaiting the much-needed revamp.

LOW POINT: lack of planning blamed for Malwa flood

CONTROVERSIES: Least controversial of Akali ministers, the only time Sekhon makes headlines is when some part of the state witnesses floods. Score: 4. Last year score: 6

Well, fares terribly again!

SC/BC welfare; animal husbandry

Gulzar Singh Ranike, 56, Class 10

Dalit face of the Badal cabinet, Ranike has his clout limited to Majha. One of the old loyalists of the CM, he has his blessings to counter the rising graph of revenue minister Bikram Majithia. He came into politics in 1991 after the death of his elder brother Dalbir Singh, a former MLA gunned down by terrorists, and is a serial poll-clincher, having won all assembly elections since his first in 1997. He is also known to be in constant touch with his constituency Attari, and is happy highlighting his accomplishments through “recycled” press statements.

PROMISES: Amount of grant under Shagun Scheme for wedding of women from weaker sections was to be hiked from `15,000 to `31,000. A welfare board was to be set up for Backward Classes; and Dalit families were to be provided insurance, residential colonies and toilets.

PERFORMANCE: Shagun Scheme grant not hiked, while other promises, too, remain on paper. Courting controversy over bogus and fake beneficiaries, money under the Shagun Scheme since last year is credited directly to the account of the applicant; but large backlog remains. Inept handling of scholarships for SC students has also given the opposition ammunition to attack the regime.

CONTROVERSIES: Has been treading cautiously after his brush with controversies last year. He had to resign following allegations of embezzlement of crores from border area development funds. But the blame was fixed on his personal assistant, who was arrested. Score: 1. Last year score: 1

Rusted and busted

Local bodies; medical edu.

Anil Joshi, 50, Class 12

Joshi rose through BJP ranks owing to his proximity to Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu. But after becoming MLA, he switched loyalties and became a blue-eyed boy of Sidhu’s detractor and SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia. A two-time MLA and minister, Joshi’s political influence comes from the company he keeps and is limited to Amritsar. Found wanting in his department, he spends most of his time in political maneuvering.

PROMISES: Sprucing up dental and medical colleges, and more funds for local bodies; a new industrial policy when he was industries minister before Sept 2013

PERFORMANCE: New industrial policy was Joshi’s only achievement during his tenure as industries minister. He was later shifted due to unrelated reasons. However, he played no major role in the policy’s formulation; even at the grand unveiling ceremony, Joshi cut a sorry figure as his name was missing from the invitation for the press conference and even the anchor almost forgot to ask the minister to “speak a few words”, as deputy CM Sukhbir Badal stole the show. In his present portfolios, medical and dental colleges remained in a pitiable condition. The state premier Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) faced an unprecedented crisis over financial woes and its status remained precarious. As local bodies minister, he is visible only in ads of Sukhbir for inaugurations of projects.

LOW POINT: Found having dual votes.

CONTROVERSIES: This year, Joshi deserves the crown of “the most controversial” minister. Election Commission has found him guilty of having dual votes, and a criminal complaint has been filed against him. Score: 1. Last year score: 3

Steady roadie

Public works

Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, 61, Law graduate

Rose through the SAD ranks by making the right friends. Was close to former MP Amrik Singh Aliwal and later Sukhbir, who catapulted him to the presidency of the Youth Akali Dal. He won Ludhiana in 2004 LS polls, but lost in 2009. In 2012 assembly polls, he won Sahnewal and got a cabinet berth.

PROMISE: Connecting all cities and towns with four- and six-lane road networks, converting bus stands into air-conditioned terminuses.
Performance: Dependent on central government funds for development projects and private players for road projects. Pace of work is slow.

HIGH PONIT: Key flyovers opened.

CONTROVERSIES: His son bagged the outdoor advertising rights of Ludhiana for 15 years. This is a big money-spinner, and was opposed by local leaders of BJP and congress. Score: 5. Last year score: 4

To be continued

First Published: Mar 15, 2014 18:44 IST