The Joshimath land subsidence and the question paper leak cases have emerged as unexpected challenges before the BJP government in Uttarakhand. There are also ongoing agitations by the Berozgar Sangh and the dismissed employees of the Vidhan Sabha that are further complicating matters. An added problem for the government is also the fact that, no matter how well these are dealt with, there is enough scope for the Congress party to obtain political mileage by stirring unrest and encouraging dissatisfaction among those affected. It would not matter so much were it not for the fact that Lok Sabha elections are to be held next year. It is imperative for the BJP to ensure it repeats its five out of five performance of the past.
So, even as solutions are found for these problems, the political impact will need to be diluted through intelligently managed negotiations with the parties concerned. In fact, former Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s recent comments on these issues underline this concern. The BJP has to be perceived to be standing with the people, even as the law takes its own course.
In the case of Joshimath, a compensation package has been worked out, which should be implemented speedily. The delivery of government relief should not be hampered by the usual bureaucratic inflexibility and, instead, be genuinely empathetic. If this is completed in a period of around six months, the goodwill generated will last well into next year. It should also be ensured that the reports submitted by various agencies on the causes of the subsidence are studied and acted upon. The policy on preventing future such incidents should be clearly articulated so that awareness is generated among ordinary people. This would prevent those with agendas of their own from guiding the narrative and obstructing development activities.
Similarly, a deal could be worked out with the dismissed employees of the Vidhan Sabha on humanitarian grounds, without conceding the basic principle of merit based recruitment. The matter should not be allowed to fester, as some unexpected or untoward incident could greatly complicate matters. As for the agitating unemployed youth, why should the government hesitate to consider their more reasonable demands? How would it matter if the recruitment scams are investigated by the CBI, particularly if the government has nothing to hide? If, even after this, the agitation is prolonged, public opinion will shift decisively in the government’s favour and the agitation seen to be politically motivated. What the government should not do is to let these issues fester even while its high functionaries are seen focusing on temple visits and other public relations exercises.