Friday, June 26

East Punjab, wild west?

With a brutal forthrightness that has never been seen in the media in the region, Ramesh Vinayak, Resident Editor of Hindustan Times, takes on the issue of misgovernance in Punjab. In a crackling take on the lumpenisation of power politics in Punjab, the senior journalist dares to call the bluff of the Badals, something the obsequious media has failed to do for long.

Jis Ke Sir Upar Tun Swami, So Dukh Kaisa Pave
This divine caller tune on the mobile phone of Sarabjit Singh Makkar apparently rings aloud about his political godfathers. Otherwise, it’s inconceivable for the controversial Shiromani Akali Dal MLA to have got away with a grudging apology for his thuggish act of publicly abusing senior BJP Cabinet Minister Manoranjan Kalia that instantly plunged the ruling alliance partners into a fresh round of Tom and Jerry sparring
Having orchestrated a kiss-and-make-up ges- ture with the estranged saffron ally, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would have the people believe that the crisis has blown over. But, this political patch-up coupled with Badal’s much-delayed piece-meal action against the Akali perpetrators of an assault on Ludhiana revenue official Major G.S. Benipal has in no way mitigated the public outrage and opprobrium that these shocking incidents on the trot have evoked across Punjab
Ironically,a huge wave of sympathy and solidarity pouring in for the Tehsildar and his credentials as an upright officer have come as the most scathing indictment of the SAD-BJP Government for its singular failure on its most basic duty: to enforce the rule of law. By their superfluous damage-control protestations,both SAD and BJP have conveniently glossed over the serious issue starkly driven home last week — lumpenisation of power politics in Punjab
While the Kalia-Makkar spat is symptomatic of the bad blood between the coalition partners despite their made-for-each-other pretensions, the strip-and-savage episode in Ludhiana has exposed the brazen audacity of rogue Akali elements, widely perceived to be cohorts and cronies of SAD president-Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. Incidentally, both incidents stemmed from the same mindset in the ruling class — indulge in lawlessness with impunity and get away with it
More shocking was the Chief Minister’s trademark procrastination. Far from taking a swift and stern action against the unruly Akalis, he came across as an indecisive ruler absolutely blasé to the gravity to both episodes. The same pusillanimity was on display during the Dera Sach Akhand blow-up last month when the state shamelessly abdicated its responsibility on enforcing the writ of law,while allowing the hordes of goons to hold the state to ransom with their wanton vandalism. That was the state government’s weird trade-off — turn a blind eye to lawlessness for the sake of peace! That it took Badal a good five days and a curt ‘sort-it-out-on-your-own’advice by the BJP high command to paper over the Kalia-Makkar spat has only bared the deepening discord between the alliance partners.The least that was expected of Badal was to suspend the wayward MLA and order an inquiry into his murky mall project in which he was armtwisting the BJP minister to extract favours
Worse,Badal put up a namby pamby response to the reprehensible Ludhiana incident,which also brought out the new depth of politicisation of the administration. Scared of taking even a normal punitive action against what they perceived as “Sukhbir’s men”, the local authorities delayed, dithered and even extended VIP treatment to the Akali attackers, waiting for instructions from the top. Which came only when the public outcry reached a crescendo. If Sukhbir, currently vacationing abroad, has come to be associated with a less than glorious brand of politics, the reasons are not far to seek. It all started in the face of Capt Amarinder Singh’s pioneering politics of vendetta in the garb of exposing the opponents’ corruption.Sukhbir only perpetuated this overly tribal politics
Desperate to fight off the Amarinder offen- sive and establish control over SAD, Sukhbir raised a phalanx of street-fighters and drumbeaters, roping in many a lupmen element.He did all this by systematically sidelining the traditional Akali stock and in the name of inducting young blood into the party. His brigade, motivated by the ‘power-at-any-cost’ credo, tasted first blood during the panchayat and civic polls,marred by blatant muscle power. Clearly, the chickens have now come home to roost
Today, Punjab’s power politics has become the first refuge of scoundrels, law-breakers and power brokers. The moneyed, the merrier
Not surprisingly, the episodic lawlessness has made it look like ‘jungle raj’in Punjab.And, the SAD-BJP government’s actions hardly inspire confidence. Instead, the alliance partners are seen to be fighting for the spoils of power. Good governance seems to be a forgotten priority
The Badal-brokered rapprochement is the beginning of new power struggle between the squabbling partners whose mutual distrust and disharmony has only become more pronounced after the Lok Sabha poll debacle.While SAD increasingly views the saffron party as a liability, the state BJP has a litany of grievances — “we are part of the government but not governance,” is the standard sulk
The BJP is no more willing to play second fiddle to SAD, which has so far treated the state BJP leadership with cavalier disdain due to Badal’s direct equation with the party high command.This,despite SAD being in power on the BJP prop.BJP’s tough stand in the Kalia episode is only a pointer to the party’s new-found assertion to extract its pound of flesh. In reality, the ruse of being “powerless”has become a fig leaf for the BJP ministers’ poor performance
Clearly, while correcting the imbalances in their power-sharing deal, both SAD and BJP have a more pressing task on hand. That is to rein in the law-breakers in their ranks.Punjab is not the wild west.The gory photograph of a stripped,horrified and bloodied Major Benipal has become the defining — and disconcerting — image of this government.It would certainly return to haunt the rulers. Sukhbir’s promise of ‘zero tolerance’ for law-breakers will on a test in the coming days. People’s patience is wearing thin faster than he could imagine from his holidaying resort abroad.

1 comment:

Mampi said...

THanks for posting it here. I had somehow missed reading this article in the newspaper that day.
The strange thing is that people are expressing their anger but not doing anything about this high handedness.