• Follow Us

NEW WINE IN AN OLD BOTTLE ( Six months of Kamalnath government)

Shashidhar .S. Kapur

Initially, after the Vidhan Sabha results , it was thought that history may be   repeated in selecting the CM but the history creators of the past were history makers of  today. So that didn’t happen. Subsequently, it was anticipated that there  would be the usual drama for portfolios – that too didn’t happen . Finally ,  last minute trick of  contesting the Speaker’s post by BJP to prevent  Congress  from playing  its role effectively in Vidhan Sabha too boomeranged .The tables  were completely turned on it when  Congress snatched away even the deputy  Speaker’s  position. That set the tone.

  Thus after first round of sparring opposition took the hint and changed its  strategy.They decided to slug it out on the streets than in the Vidhan Sabha.It too adopted what has become the norm these days – the scorched earth tactic- lying low and waiting for the government to make mistakes.

  In earlier times ,it would be considered unfair to begin evaluating the government before the end of at least a year in office. Times changed and in the T20 era it  became the norm to take stock after the first 100 days .In the  days of 24/7  politics, there is continual evaluation now. Let’s mark the first six months of  Kamalnath  regime in this light. Given the tricky mandate, this government was supposed to hit the ground running.

   True to the expectations , efforts were made from the word go to change the polity – from politics of  delivery to politics of  performance. Meaning executing more of  whatever was promised and less of  delivering whatever is demanded ad hoc -populism. Politics was more tactical with both parties in  not- lose :not lose  stance , given the  close mandate .It was a cold war at best. Congress tried veering to corporate model than a descendancy / family run enterprise by empowering the regional satraps; BJP attempted quietly to move away from Supremo to Kutumb controlled culture by leadership decentralisation.

  Governance style was moderated and calibrated  – less of regulation and  more of governance. Both collective as well as cumulative leadership was in play besides the role of  guardianship- leading  from behind. The governance agenda  was  mostly about setting new departments and shutting  down  non- performing  schemes .There was hardly any time to present a vision for various departments  nor for any policy initiatives.Governace  too got politicised given the actional  equations.

 The entire focus of administration was on delivering top priority of           manifesto apart from the low hanging  fruits. Administration expected to be bamboozled but there was a nuanced  rearrangement . However, after a lull the  floodgates  broke loose. At the lower levels clearing the mess of political meddling was most challenging in the light of erstwhile  Karyakarta culture.  Only difference is that it is being done by the elected members than non- state  actors. Administration is being  nudged towards  management – impression is of a dominating role of  Politicians against  BJP’s  image of  being controlled by bureaucrats.However , in the light of the  Lok Sabha elections there was politicisation of ad ministration too.

On the social front , the effort was to nudge it from communal to community- which is easier said than done. Relief and succor in case of hailstorm and mishaps was limited to monetary compensation-not many leaders reached out . Succour  should  not merely be  given but also  must be felt to be given-sympathy alongwith money is a relief multiplier .The signal was of a comparative lack of empathy in administration.Providing  water on a war footing in Kshipra for  ritual bathing   was well received. Continuing the social security schemes and expanding them was on account of the forthcoming elections

  Thinking on their feet ,the government had to make a few U- turns and roll backs. There was a talk of mentoring the ministers – including how to prepare replies for Vidhan Sabha questions which is odd given that all of  them were made cabinet  ministers. Administratively, many transfers and postings had to be switched almost immediately. There was the court setback in the case of  OBC reservation too( the  government is persisting with it in the light of its political significance) . As for the media engagement , Kamalnath had to lift the blanket ban midway through.

All said and done , what is that which is expected in the first six  months ? In the context of the mandate it was to initiate delivery of  top priority promises     besides some low hanging  fruits alongwith minor  course correction. With no event , no major controversies ; no  implosions or explosions it appeared  status quo ante. In reality, it  was status quo ante – cum – kaam chalu aahe (doing the same things differently –cum-removing different things.) A little  below the  surface, dismantling  forces worked at twice the pace even if superficially the impression was not to rock the boat too much. All the CAG reports  and investigations  into various bodies have been initiated  and  funds to uncomfortable schemes have been dried.

From the Citizens’ point of  view , it is worrisome that the agenda of  both   major parties has become  similar and there is hardly any recall value of the  candidate .Besides, it is becoming quasi majoritarian or quasi totalitarian government , quasi dedicated and quasi committed  bureaucracy, co-opted  journalists or embedded scribes .The ordinary citizen has been converted into a   mere voter with a sense of disenfranchisement. If  as per the mandate  40%  of  the opposition manifesto is not included or  good  work  continued ( since the opposition got over 40% votes) the citizens would suffer. Instead , only the work of the leaders of  opponents are addressed  – who act as brokers.

Kamalnath claims to have delivered 83 promises in  83 days prior to the model  code of conduct -thereby he should be able to fulfill all the 372 manifesto points  by mid term- and 974 promises by the end .Doing it is difficult ,if not impossible. Having  got the low hanging ones out of the  way , the tricky ones could make the government stumble due to lack of a publicly shared vision by the midterm. Just as impossible announcements of BJP government hanunted them, theimprobable promises of  Congress  manifesto will come to bite them.

If one had to single out one path breaking  stuff  ,it would be initiating the  process  for Vidhan Parishad  and avoiding vindictive  politics viz. not abolishing  Jan  Abhiyan Parishad. The singular  stand out  decision in Governance  was  revival of  district government.

On theflip side , to pinpoint the two major  wrongs – they would be engaging  with  global  giants in  sunrise  areas (Sun Pharma, Facebook  mentoring   etc.).The twin tools of  global dominance in this century- resource  colonisation and data mining–  would fully come into play if  hard negotiations are not done for a win-win approach.Our data as well as biodiversity is as valuable , if not more, as the tech and capital of these giants. Data and resource decentralization hold the key . Else ,MP  would  be on the road to be the second  digital colony after  Jharkhand. Another  risky  stuff – the Facebook mentoring  initative –  empowering  digitally – Public service has to do it.This is Facebook Zero in a different garb and ought to be avoided- instead create intranets.The  second  dangerous proclamation is  about extending  the  Chhindwara model  across the  state. Its  capital intensive –cum- cheap labour approach should be  moderated and calibrated  lest the  state becomes an internal colony in the long run.

All thru these six months  BJP  tried  many a time to push the government on back foot indirectly on the streets. They raised  hue and cry about the deteriorating law and order in the case of  some murders  but administration was quick to nab the  culprits who turned out to be saffronists. Their charge of  scrapping  welfare  schemes does not  bear on facts  – barring the  last minute  scheme  “ Sambal”  no major  scheme  was  stopped. Power cuts was sought to be  made an  issue but   could not snowball since  no major cuts happened. When it was claimed that  farmers haven’t  received loan waivers the government produced a list of  22  lakh  recipients. When the issue of  fake promises was raised a list of  83 fulfilled promises was  shown. In short , Congress appeared nimble and ready  for a street  fight if  BJP resorted to guerilla tactics via  raids and poaching.

In this light ,Achche Din are ensured for citizens of  MP in all scenarios of  future. Since BJP surpassed even its performance of  LS 2014 , polity in the state  would remain  vibrant-good  governance is ensured given the competitiveness. Kamlnath   has emerged  relatively stronger by default- with  all the  stalwarts including  Scindia and Digvijay losing.Scindia and  Bavaria have  quit as in-charge of  West U.P. and M.P. respectively. Kamalnath  should relinquish the Party  chief  position .The party  too must get out of the electoral mode to organisation building stance.BJP  is likely to slide  from its  current  peak –  its house in MP is in a disorder.There is nothing  on the horizon – nationally or locally – to  suggest otherwise.The extent would  depend  upon its  performance in the  municipal  elections.Tthere is a chance for minor outfits  like JAYAS,  SAPAKS SP, BSP expanding their footprint  in local elections.

Kamalnath would make history if  he is able to do two things : widen the political engagement  by Vidhan Parishad and take the  economy to the next level – from agrarian to value added organic . Not only will it help the state but revive the  Congress organisation too.However , if  it is not  accompanied  simultaneously with the empowerment of  Panchyats ,polity would become autocratic from remote controlled.Likewise , unless associated with  the promotion of  stand-ups  and cooperatives in the  right ratio the economy would become exclusive.

    Governance needs course correction too.The government must bring out a white paper on the14yr  rule and  seek closure in Vyapam, Bhopal gas tragedy  , E- tendering  etc. The Government  must appoint its remaining  ministers and present a Vision-   to serve as a guideline for the unexpected – that not mentioned in manifesto. Else  malgovernance , misgovernance is likely. Administratively ,  Policies and procedures need to be  in place  without any  further delay- else wrath of  government servants may revive.

 Social engineering of  elections must pave way to social weaving  – Sarva Jana Hitaya , Sarvadharma Sambhava .At the moment  Kamalnath  government seems to move in the right  direction albeit with a wobbly  orientation – like  an automobile moving  in the right direction but in reverse  gear .Sooner  or later ,it is going to crash. The  implication is that due to lack of a shared vision the  orientation is flawed  whereby at every pressure  point  the government reverts  to  old  Congress policies instead of  innovative approach. This is counter to the BJP  where the direction was wrong but orientation  correct  thereby at some point in time had to be a breakdown. The point is that opposition ought not mean “ reverse” – it should signify “different”

   Congress would shoot itself in the foot only if it tries to disrespect the mandate  and change more than 40 percent- in the  ratio of its vote. Reviving the old Congress  policies ,programmes beyond 15  percent would  be dangerous .Even after  LS  results, the  vision of  Congress  vis-a -vis  various ministries and  policies has not  been announced , it  is a signal that Madhya  Pradesh has merely a  change of  government and  no change in the system. It is an old  wine in a new  bottle . Similarly no mission has been enunciated nor  have  any innovative programmes / schemes  intitiated .Accordingly, sooner than later old policies / programmes of  Congress would emerge ,even if in a new package – like new wine  in an old bottle. For its progress  the state needs at least some new policies and programmes – new wine in a new bottle – only that will ensure long term revival of  Congress. In any case , only a few schemes of  Shivraj regime have  been dropped  – mostly the ones which were inactive  or had not taken off  viz. the Sambal Yojana.It is veering  towards business as usual and merely revival of  old Congress  culture , warts et al. Surprisingly schemes have  been drafted not as per need but  due to political  epedienccy-  eg .A Maha-Ayushman  health scheme is to be  launched to  co-opt and top up the flagship Ayushman Health scheme  of   centre. Naming a tree plantation scheme after Sanjay Gandhi is queer  –  a state icon may have been better.Similarly the Sonia  Gandhi scheme of  BDA  has been revived. Some schemes are being drafted to pre-empt the forthcoming  schemes of the centre viz. ration by  smart card  anywhere. In today’s data driven  electoral politics populist schemes have become a vital source of data mining  and  subsequent micro- targeting.

Another oddity is to go for the rights  approach in everything- from water  to health .To my  mind , the organic aspects are better served by “ entitlements”- the difference being that in “rights” a  person can seek redresssal if  the due is  not given  while in an  “entitlement” the   due is educted  initially viz.  under    “ rights” a person living  near a  river  could  challenge in courts  if the water from the dam is  not  given to him while in  a n   entitlement the  water to a dam  / in dustry/ collective  would  be  given  “after” supplying it to the last individual.

Meanwhile, the lack of clarity provided the opposition enough cannon fodder .  Each satrap  promoting his own interests during the Lok Sabha elections sent the message that the  camraderie was shortlived.Digvijay contesting , Jyotiraditya  going off  to U.P. Kamalnath persisting  as PCC  chif- cost Congress in the    perception battle. BJP made fun of  the multiple transfers as “ la and order (bribe and get posting) ”,   IT  raids attempted to label Kamlnath  as “Bhrasht naath” . Their dirty tricks department  tried to create an artificial urea shortage , electricity and water crisis besides communicating the impression that power brokers in Vallabh  Bhawan are back .BJP  claimed that the Co-operative sector is being demolished  and not even ten percent of  the government decisions have reached  the last mile on ground.The LS results indicate that they won the perception battle.

After the LS verdict , Kamalnath is the only one with his political stature  somewhat intact. That gives him a greater breathing space-the  Satraps  who mistook the rejctection of  Shivraj as their own victory after VS  have  been  forced  to come together or face existential crisis. Some course correction seems to be underway but not anything substantial. Ministers have been told to reach out into public for greater social politics; civil servants are directed to  move into the field and ensure home delivery of at least some public services. However these steps are not  enough – unless Kamlnath himself  interacts more  he’d  get the tag  of  “ CM of  Vallabh Bhawan”. He need not physically go out a great deal but can use technology- VC – for regular interaction with the hinterland( the  Jan Adhikar programme is a good  initiative ).As a rule , he should move out of  Bhopal  into regions-preferably to  most  backward villages –on weekends and holidays .

The Economic Survey merely proved what I’ve been saying for nearly two decades  – that Madhya Pradesh has been on a treadmill since its inception . Running in the same place but reaching nowhere – in fact regressing. There  has   been  immense development  but no progress- the state has swelled with respect  to itself  but has not grown relative  to others . It  was the third  poorest at the  time   of  formation and  remains so today. In fact its per capita  income  – while  multiplying  manifold   – has actually  regressed . In 1956  it  was  85% of  the  national per capita  income ; now it is only  75%. The gap between  M.P . and  rest  of the  country has widened.(  Details on my Dec ,2016 piece – From Bimaru to Farzi :www.shashidharkapur.wordpress.com)

Earlier , in the Congress regimes data sanctity  was largely maintained with minor  doctoring  which was later given a fraudulent spin to paint a rosier national picture. In  BJP  governments ,it has  gone to the next level -alternate data has replaced  data to a great extent which is dressed up  marginally at  the centre to give a  healthier federal  state of the  economy.  Kamalnath  must clean darkness from  two  key  areas- Depoliticise  bureaucracy by dissociating it from Sangh and  data  sanitisation of the economy. Only half  hearted attempts have been seen in both – by mass  transfers of officers and a  white  paper approach of  Economic  survey. More was expected to follow.

The budget however was hardly that – it was  merely a manager’s statement  of accounts -cum -Munshi’s  Bahi  khaata. Granted that post GST the   conventional budget  has become defunct as there is little scope for taxation by the  state governments and there are  limits to public  borrowing. All that remains is   juggling of  priorities and allocations. By which M.P. will always remain a laggard even if  technically it sheds the BIMARU  tag. An  innovative- improvising  approach  could’ve been adopted ; instead , the easier way out of  enhancing  tax on  petrol outside the budget , improving the ease of  liquour  business  and   attempting  greater revenue  from  the real  estate  was  adopted. All in all, MP   can only grow in absolute  terms  if  and  only if  it  has its own  economic  model.(Details on : Complementary  budget  of a glorified manager: www.shashidharkapur.wordpress.com)

Along the way, Madhya Pradesh government showed a firm approach in two  areas- almost in a bipartisan  manner; in standing up to Gujarat for its share of   water and electricity  and demanding a 50% share for the states to the Finance  commission. Kamalnath has to come up with some tangible results by the  end of  his first year to have any chance of a legacy. Only if he delivers something concrete on the industrial front by “ Magnificent  MP”   event in October would he establish his credentials as leader than a glorified manger.

Soon , the elections to Local Bodies would be held followed by the Panchayat  polls in the next phase. If  by then the organisational ground is not  restored  and the  Satraps  do not stick  together to deliver ,chances of  consolidation will vanish after the half way mark. The  opposition is aware of   the fact that every passing  day would  consolidate  Congress and   slide BJP.So they’re  ensuring to make it a lameduck  government-  drying  funds  from the  Centre  ,Governor  stalling   appointments ,daily dose of  threat  to pull it  down , using  agencies and the rest .Officers  too are weighing  in-  with  every slip electorally the hold over administration would loosen. As they  say , well begun is half  done but then there is also a slip  between the cup and the lip beyond the halfway mark. Based on the turn of  events henceforth the greatest anger to the government would come in 2022. Depending on the course Congress charts , MP could convert from a laboratory of  Hindutva to a University of  progressive Humanism or only a bump before another long Saffron innings.