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Path Ahead

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It is quite an achievement for a Chief Minister to continue in office for three years in Uttarakhand and that also without witnessing upheavals and leg- pulling. Incumbent Trivendra Singh Rawat has managed it without much fuss. It may be remembered that selecting a chief minister was a difficult task for the BJP High Command because government formation involved including temperamental and high profile defectors from the Congress. The challenge for the new leader from the start was not just containing their egos, but also managing the BJP’s own leaders, who would naturally have been more than a little miffed at having to share ministerial positions with former adversaries. The vacant three seats in the Cabinet are an indication of how difficult a task this is.

CM TS Rawat has steered a careful course in this context, quite obviously with the backing of top party bosses. His having been a long time party apparatchik who understood back room politics and priorities has quite obviously helped. He has done well to ensure smooth functioning of centrally funded projects in the state, which have a long term strategic importance. One of the most significant initiatives has been the inclusion of all residents of the state in the ‘Atal Ayushman Yojana’, an ambitious extension of the national level programme. It requires effective implementation and protection from becoming riddled with the usual corruption that feeds on government programmes. If successful, it provides a guarantee of re-election two years down the line.

Of course, the challenges are many. There are the unexpected ones like the present threat from the Corona virus, but also those rooted in the fundamental contradictions of Indian society, such as the issue of reservations in promotions for the SC/ST in government jobs. The ongoing agitation regarding this will require some very subtle negotiations to resolve. The CM may be unassuming in his demeanour but has, thus far, exhibited the required resolve in coping with such challenges.

Building up the state’s economy is the most formidable long term challenge, particularly as it is divided into primarily two contrasting environments – the hills and the plains. This requires not just investment, but also providing people with the skills required, as well as the spirit of entrepreneurship. Quite obviously, government interventions at the micro and macro levels will have to be different. The small start-ups require careful handholding by a fully sensitised government set up, while the officials dealing with the established corporate sector will need a sophisticated understanding of business practices. CM Rawat could do well to borrow a leaf from the late ND Tiwari’s book by identifying brilliant young minds from among his officials and, then, giving them the functional autonomy to pursue clearly defined goals. This will give substance to the, thus far, largely symbolic declaration of Gairsain as the Summer Capital, which the CM personally counts as one of his major achievements.