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Reset Governance

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Uttarakhand’s Trivendra Singh Rawat Government has completed three years in office. It is obviously an occasion to take stock, particularly as it will soon be time to renew the mandate. In Uttarakhand, around the three year mark has also been ominous for chief ministers. Concern about performance has led to change in the leadership. Rivals often use occasions when the graph is low to execute their designs. In fact, in the run up to the Delhi elections, many were rooting for a poor performance in motivating ‘pahadi’ voters to vote for the BJP, so that questions could be raised about the ‘Modi-free’ clout of the state leadership.

There is no doubt that an element of insecurity exists, otherwise three positions would not have remained empty in the Cabinet. The emphasis has, instead, been on appointment of ‘advisors’ – persons that neither have an electoral mandate nor a position in any administrative service. Nobody seems to realise that such appointments are unsustainable if Cabinet posts remain empty. Are the BJP’s MLAs so bereft of talent that the Chief Minister has to depend on outsiders for advice? A presidential style of functioning in a parliamentary set-up is only possible if the person at the top is capable of single-handedly bringing in the votes. Have the three years of BJP rule in the state delivered up to expectations? Has enough goodwill been credited in the bank for the times when unexpected challenges emerge? The present kerfuffle over reservations in promotions for SC/ST government employees has the potential to create unwanted divisions in society, which all kinds of forces would be happy to exploit – political and otherwise. As such, apart from the nitty-gritty of everyday governance, challenges such as this require an overarching vision that comes from good leadership.

After taking a strong stand on certain critical issues at the start of his term, it has been ‘business as usual’ for CM Rawat. Much of the government’s functioning has become bureaucratised. Even election winning initiatives such as the Atal Ayushman Yojana have suffered owing to lacklustre implementation and ineffective follow-up measures. So many excellent moves have suffered from this malaise – the floundering move to revive the Rispana is just one example. Work on shifting the state’s industry towards the new, upcoming sectors; utilising technology in innovative ways to provide education and health services; building connectivity; managing urban growth; boosting pilgrimage and tourism beyond the traditional, overburdened mores, etc., requires more than just announcements and inaugurations. The third year review is an apt occasion to reset governance to the point where winning an election would be just a minor challenge.