Ever since the Vijay Bahuguna led Congress plus PDF government came to power in the state, people have been hoping for the much required ‘leap forward’ that would focus Uttarakhand’s many resources on the development process. Unfortunately, every time the Cabinet meets, the decisions just prove to be a collection of ‘points’ – all that is needed to get through the present and live to fight another day. Nowhere are there indications that there is an integrated and well considered vision being pursued in a step by step fashion. It is more like knee-jerk reactions to events and opportunities. And, now, with the Lok Sabha elections approaching and the Chief Minister having a personal stake in the results, it is clear that the long term plan, if ever there was one, has gone for a toss.
Delivery on the ongoing programmes and projects, too, has been poor. Instead of energy emanating from the government, the state is more like a raft being carried down a raging Ganga with the passengers clinging on for dear life. Almost every section of government employees is up in arms. It is a comment on the state of governance that, even so, it is carrying on unfazed – not much work was being done anyway it would seem in the government offices. Issues that can be easily negotiated – if sincerely addressed by the bureaucracy and directed by the politicians – result instead in strikes and boycotts. There doesn’t some to be a single initiative taken by any department that does not result in street protests. The only ones suffering, of course, are the common people as they are turned away from hospitals and offices.
What point, therefore, is an endless fine-tuning of ‘public-friendly’ legislation if it is not going to be properly implemented? The philosophy of governance has gone so badly off the rails that people in need of public services, a positive environment for making a living, and an infrastructure to bear the burden of economic growth, are offered on daily basis sops and handouts as though they are beggars at the door. It seems the Congress had planned a couple of years ago to bombard the people with election winning goodies and is mindlessly continuing with the plan regardless of society’s changed mood. There have been developments in the past two years that have drawn out sections of voters who did not actively participate in politics beyond exercising their franchise. Now, they are not willing to allow captive votebanks to hijack the elections and are eager to assert themselves. Subsidies and freebies are not going to influence them much.
Can anybody articulate the Bahuguna Government’s development policy? Is it evident in any of the actions taken during its term in office? Does allocating land and providing clearance to soft-drink plants and cement factories in environmentally sensitive areas constitute a forward looking industrial policy? Even with regard to ongoing projects, the state government has neither been able to prevent the whimsicalities of Union Ministers, nor offer an alternative agenda more suited to the state.
How long can this last? Something will have to give. Particularly as alternative modes of governance are emerging elsewhere that give hope and offer a breakthrough. This is why, even though there is no clear indication from the party High Command, there is daily speculation on leadership change in the government. It is a manifestation of the party members own desperation, as the writing is becoming increasingly clear on the wall.