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Inauspicious Signs

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Congress candidates have won the posts of Chairpersons in the municipalities of Bajpur and Srinagar. This indicates, once again, the sophisticated manner in which the voters are making their choices nowadays. Even the least privileged know the difference in voting for a national leadership and a local one. It had become evident, earlier, when states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, MP, Odisha, etc., voted differently in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. There may be a number of reasons for this maturity, but the access to smartphones and social media is surely one. Earlier, the people of Mussoorie had opted for independents instead of the national parties when voting for their municipal board. Of course, the middle classes, who represent the core BJP voters, do not turn out as much for local elections as they should.
The defeats for the BJP in Bajpur and Srinagar are being viewed as an opening for the Congress to make a comeback in a state where it is almost out for the count. The party organisation is in disarray and consequent to Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, nobody knows who is boss. The state level leadership is scant and no emerging leaders are visible. Despite that, it is clear the party remains the go to if voters wish to reject the ruling party, or send it a message. So, while the Congress should look upon the wins as a morale booster and an indication that the battle is never lost, the BJP should shed its current complacency because the Modi factor will not win it votes when national issues don’t count.
It is perhaps about time for the BJP’s central leadership to undertake an audit of the TS Rawat Government’s performance. There have been grand announcements and the national level programmes and schemes are being implemented with some energy, but there are many areas in grassroots governance not up to the mark. There are too many reports of the departments being in disarray, with disgruntled and poorly performing employees, services not being rendered, and a dissatisfied populace. The higher levels of the bureaucracy are failing to provide leadership, while those in the lower ranks are only concerned with their perks and allowances. Stories of corruption break every day. The gap between the plains and hills has grown even wider and most claims of taking development to the higher reaches have proved hollow. This is basically a governance problem due primarily to administrative inexperience, which has been made worse by the stubborn refusal to even appoint the number of ministers that are statutorily allowed. There is great opacity in government functioning, with power exercised closely by a coterie. Under the circumstances, the popularity of the government at the local level cannot be high and may pose a problem if left unaddressed.