Dehradun has had the good fortune for some time of having a proactive and largely responsive SSP, even if not all of his experiments were successful. Among the first acts of the new dispensation in the state has been to give Kewal Khurana the boot. Not a happy augury! Of course, nobody has a permanent tenure at any position, but the timing of moving him to the PHQ is clearly suspect; as though it was part of a previously established agenda. It gives rise to the suspicion that one lobby has gone and another has moved in. Obviously, somewhere along the line, Khurana alienated some powerful person to have been given such immediate and high priority now.
On the other hand, the new Chief Minister, Harish Rawat, has retained Vijay Bahuguna’s team as his Cabinet colleagues, prompting the opposition leaders to describe it as ‘old wine in a new bottle’. Although, it might be said that factionalism and lobbying led to the demise of the Bahuguna regime, there is the question of what prompted the High Command to, first, give ear to the demands and, second, to concede them. What were the negatives in the message being communicated to Delhi by members of the party, the media and other observers? How was the activity of a certain clique impacting on general governance in the state and the implementation of policy? Did the Saket Bahuguna Lok Sabha bypoll and the municipal poll debacles ring the alarm bells in Delhi? Was the decision to be taken, earlier, and it was only the June 2013 disaster that postponed the inevitable? Or, is it just further evidence of a party stumbling from one mishap to another?
It may not have been easy to reshuffle the ministry. Making a show of decisiveness by moving around bureaucrats and police officers is easy, but, what after that? How is the public to judge that there has been improvement in the government’s functioning after all the chess pieces have been put in place? For instance, how much time does the new Chief Minister need to bring to a conclusion all the seemingly endless agitations taking place in the state? CMs come and CMs go but these agitations go on forever! It is the one certain legacy they hand over to each other, irrespective of party affiliations.
The agitations are a symptom of disconnect between people’s aspirations and what government is capable of giving. They are the result of false promises made in the past – some from immediately after the state was formed. Uttarakhand is too small a state for the politicians to be able to ‘shoot and scoot’. After undertaking the obvious review of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the disaster hit areas of the state, the new CM must focus entirely on dealing with the catastrophe that having youth and government employees permanently on the streets represents. He must cut deals with every one of the groups by addressing the grievances in a practical and credible manner. No CM can sleep easy if the young men and women are spending nights on dharna and hunger strikes.
Part of the problem lies in a recalcitrant bureaucracy that will not present the true picture before the political leadership on various issues. Nor is it willing to deliver anything beyond that which suits its own interests. An interesting study would be how many top notch bureaucratic jobs there were in the state thirteen years ago, and how many are in existence today. This should be compared with the percentage increase (or decrease) in jobs for ordinary mortals! Who exactly has been the true beneficiary of the state’s formation would become more than clear! The politicians have only been made to believe they are the ones in clover.