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( Voters’ Report card in COVID 1.0 )

Shashidhar. S. Kapur

It is unfortunate that a developing state like Madhya Pradesh should face the double whammy of political instability and corona pandemic simultaneously. Perhaps misfortune picks upon the meek – Just as fortune favours the brave . Historically , M.P. has been a BIMARU state – Only recently , it developed pretensions of being a SUCHARU ( Well governed ) best among BIMARU- status.As in Corona ,wherein those with pre- existing diseases / co- morbidities suffer the most , states with political instability face the maximum livelihood crisis and those with greatest social unrest suffer the highest loss of life. A look at the key decisions in the corona lockdown- unlock period will illustrate it.

Many key decisions in the first semester point to Covid M.P. being a darker version of pre-covid state.On the Political front , the only solace is that Opposition behaved maturely and the counter forces within BJP held their horses.Beyond that, the bright spots are few and far in between. Extending the term of Local body officials by a year exacerbated the shady decision of Kamalnath government of postponing the election dates to place administrators in office during elections.Two wrongs do not make a right- the state suffers.Decisions qua Economy include putting farm loan waivers on hold and reviving zero percent loans. It basically means that government will merely take care of the interest and not of the principal amount ; allowing private traders to procure opens the possibility of hoarding in the crisis period ; E- Mandi is a Bhavantar kind of scheme –to benefit traders more than the farmers- wonder if the same team has designed it.;The new central farm bills will exacerbate it …A welcome step is the last minute announcement of CM Kisaan Sammaan Nidhi of 4000 per year but it comes to only 333/- p.m.( In addition to 6000 p.a. from PM Kisaan Sammaan Nidhi – it becomes 10 K per year or 833/- p.m). Even if Shivraj’s pronouncements are taken at face value – Foodgrain / Pulses / mustard procurement put additional 2000 cr. and Agri Insurance gave another 2900 cr .These roughly add up to 6000 cr . in the Agri economy – which is roughly half of what would have been pumped via farm loan waiver.(11650 cr.) –government claims twice the amount but no data in public domain supports it; besides, mislead by giving the false impression that Shivraj government was paying the agri insurance premium of 2200 cr. unpaid during Kamalnath regime .The fact is that the backlog was from Shivraj 3.0. Singular command helped to an extent in Governance during that innings .However , neither the intent was clear nor the command singular in Shivraj 4.0.Only a team of previous ministers in the same departments would’ve helped in Covid phase. As in his previous innings administrative delivery improved but great delivery with poor governance is blind.( Just as great governance but poor delivery is lame ).Mere delivery is not enough – it has to delivery of the right thing / serviceto the rig ht p erson-only targeted voters benefitted. Key Adminstrative actions include enhanced allowances and insurance for frontline workers ; the darker ones are closing the Mahalgaon Land dispute case in EOW against Scindia within hours of oath taking sends wrong signals and continual transfers throughout till poll dates announcement.

Misleading on Sambal- Everyone knows that such schemes are launched shortly before elections to funnel the funds to party workers than beneficiaries. Nath government never scrapped Sambal-merely carried out a fact check to weed out the fakes and renamed it as Naya Savera-Perhaps calling it Sambal Savera after incorporating the corrections would’ve been better. Sambal – a blanket scheme- is the governance counterpart of Kamalnath / Congress enacting a law for everything.Both approaches are half baked – more specific/ targeted approach works in states (esp. underdevloped). Moreover Mahendra Sisodiya ( crossed over to BJP) as minister in Kamalnath govt. had said that around 68 lakh out of 2.64 cr. beneficiaries of Sambal scheme in Shivraj 3.0 were bogus; now all those have been activated without vetting and Rs. 68cr. transferred to them .. Giving the secretary/ commissioner DPR addl. Charge of VC Makhan Lal University goes beyond the headline management of Modi- It is also the copy management-micromanaging the news items (Kamalnath Govt. had allowed several months to the previous VC- Jagdish Upasane -to be eased out).After decades, the tradition of appointing Journalists as VC was restored in past two cases, it has been diluted now with appointing a Mass communication man – K G Suresh-a known saffronite. Moreover , when the CM himself says that he is temporary till bypolls affirmation – couldn’t the appointment waited till bypolls? Anand Vibhag was renamed Adhyatma Vibhaga by Kamalnath Govt . returned to the original nomenclature .Makes little sense since the exercise of developing Happiness Indices alongwith IIT as also Fellowships to devise a state model is in cold storage since Shivraj 3.0 ; Lying On IIFA- that 700 cr were allotted whereas his own finance deptt. said that no funds were earmarked- it was thru donors-only 10cr. Of donor money was given for branding…The currently prevailing twin stratgies in Politics Worldwide – Deactivate critical thinking by information overload and blatantly lie – instead of merely hyping, hyperbole , spin – the voter/ consumer is suspicious of twists but is gullible about plain lies since thee is no context.

Where was the need to cancel Maheshwar project on a priority basis ?… All major decisions in the lockdown are political – in view of bypolls. Many apolitical ones stopped– Farm loan waiver , 100 unit free electricity…Apolitical decisions limited to doing only small things in a big way (viz. making masks , ration , increase in pulses / mustard procurement marginally etc. – token and symbolic ) but none of big stuff…By the way , if everything about Shivraj 3.0 was so good – as is implied by reverting to old schemes , departments , officers etc.- Why did people defeat him ? Irrespective of Shivraj’s claims about more votes but less seats , people had defeated him comprehensively – 7% swing against was more than the Modi wave. Worse still ,is the case of reverse sobbery– when recently Shivraj said that he intends to revive Bhavantar scheme in its original format.

Overall,in Corona management , M.P. has merely been following the best practices of others – mostly “reactive” occasionally “ active” and never “proactive” or “preventive” Professionally-Doctors have been good but not great – no single treatment was inititated here viz.only after others showed positive signs that M.P. sought permission for plasma therapy,Another immunity regime under trial in AIIMS Bhopal showed encouraging signs but its Corona wing remains underutilised, an ICMR approved testing kit produced by a Bhopal/Govindpura based company was never promoted since all the purchases were centralized in Delhi ; Police has been good but not great – nowhere else have so many policemen been infected / lost lives ( save Maharashtra ); Adminstratively- the health machinery did a good job but not great- in no state have so many health officials been infected almost becoming carriers than helpers (at least in Bhopal); Draconian measures such as ESMA forced 50 doctors to quit and later all Junior doctors offered to resign; State was among the last to initiate the process of labourers / students return from other states; tenders worth 100cr for Medical equipment could not be released for 10 days due to absence of a minister ; in many cases the tests were so slow that patients died by the time results came after a week. Moreover , the government prevented the data of asymptomatic patients tested positive to be uploaded on the Covid app . Going by the track record of fudging Agri figures in Shivraj 3.0 , we’re inclined to believe reports of COVID figures underreported –will have to wait to gauge the extent.

The dark and ugly version of Shivraj began with Chouhan continuing for over a month without a cabinet. In the process he created a dubious record of maximum days without a cabinet – surpassing the record of KCR. All the while the state was run by bureaucrats .That was unconstitutional since such a provision is only under governor’s rule – there is no provision for a Chief ministers’ rule.

Thereafter, an oddball mini- Cabinet of 5 ministers was constituted. Cabinet was both illegal (at least 12 ministers haveto be appointed ) and immoral ( Appointing those ministers who’d resigned from VS without re-election, they were not fresh ministers).. .Even the final cabinet is both illegal and immoral – more than permitted ministers and 14 of them not even mlas ( anything above 12.5 %- anything beyond 3 unelected should not be allowed )…Initially , the attempt seemed to carry on the charade till May 3 lockdown opening by merely allocating regions but no departments to ministers. Perhaps it was a trial balloon to guage the reaction of Scindia camp . Growing pressure from media and Scindia forced department allocation alongwith assigning the regions. However, the turncoat ministers were mostly absent in action- being confined to their constituencies in the wake of by polls. Allotting both the key deptts.- Health and Home – to Narottam Mishra effectively annointed him as Deputy CM sans the designation .The other key portfolios at that juncture- Finance , Public relations and Labour too were not allocated.

Cabinet 2.0 – further exacerbated the oddity. It too stretched the illegality and extended the immorality(Appointing even those who were not ministers in Kamalnath government without re- election) Moreover Chouhan created another shady record by not allotting departments for over ten days after oath taking. Such public haggling for key departments is a new low it was so crudely played out that even newspapers carried headlines showing the percentages of funds to various ministries as weightage– poltics reduced to business.

Clearly indicating an ongoing power struggle. Perhaps CM v/s Supra CM (Shivraj v/s Scindia) and Supra Party v/s New Members ( RSS v/s Scindia camp).Two examples will illustrate it- Scindia wrote a public letter to Shivraj for mustard procurement and extending the date ; there were murmurs saying that this is not BJP style of functioning – nobody apart from supreme leader takes the credit of government decisions . Next, Govind Rajput demanded in media that Scindia ought to be sworn in the Union Cabinet- Pralhad Patel was quick to pounce saying that in BJP nobody demands anything – including a ministerial berth. At the end of it Saffron brigade clearly presented a divided house- Shivraj, Maharaj , Naaraz ( disgruntled ) , National BJP , State BJP and RSS.

Nobody will ever know the complete details of the Operation Lotus deal – whether the fine print included same or higher deptt. It is highly unlikely that defecting ministers would have agreed for minor /smaller departments.This is a curse that in M.P. we seem to get only oddball cabinets ; Kamalnath made everyone of the same rank- a cabinet minister and Shivraj went on for nearly a month without cabinet.That points to the dark eco system and calls for an M.P. model of governance.

Continuing the darker vein , Social crimes rise despite lockdown- a young girl raped and blinded , another blind woman raped in the capital ; a farmer beaten to death ; minorities / poor targeted resulting in law & order situation with stone pelting on doctors, policemen ; Illegal sand mining saw a great spurt ; illicit liquor bootlegged ; Cheating in relief material- Flour packets weigh less than marked ; black marketing of essential items.. The broad pattern is that “ Law” enforcement improved during Kamalnath / Congress and “ order ” is better restored under Shivraj- the total figures remain in the same range.However , most number of crimes against women, children and senior citizens is a qualitative indicator of the state being underdeveloped.

While Shivraj comeback was not be beneficial for the state / citizens as per his potential but coming of BJP govt. could have been a blessing in disguise. At least for the first year/ quarter they’d have to work extra hard to remove / fade the blot from Public memory.They should’ve tried to avoid more blots / thefts / looting – of relief…party can ill afford it.

In Covid what we got was platitudes like Rameshwar Sharma saying that post August 5 Corona will decline with the foundation stone of Ram Temple. Kill corona-campaign died trying to kill corona virus- killing the corona patients instead. Migrant Labour crisis handling is a generational shame.Where is the point of Prabhuran Chowdhary saying post facto that MP had most labourers since it is centrally located ?

Overall, government adopted the Policy of following the central directions obediently and copying the best practices of others .To save the skin of self avoid risks in volved in saving others.Not a single apolitical announcement , no bipartisan decision.Government showed absolute lack sensitivity with no Shivraj visit to Indore , Ujjain during peak periods . It reaffirmed the saffron dictum of “ winning without fighting , earning without working” (By guerilla tactics and brokership respectively). Shivraj Contacting Corona at the end of lockdown was questionable – failed to gain sympathy since it was due to political interactions than mingling with masses. Ministers too were absconding – busy more in ensuring their re-election than serving corona impacted.

During the period benefits taken away from masses and handed over to classes – electricity bills ; revenue shifted away from the state to the cadre. For instance , Jan Abhiyaan was activated without clearing the previous allegation of partisanship.Sand and liquor lobbies were attacked to make way for mafia . Whether by tweaking policies – shutting off shops or administrative measures . It goes on to show that in M.P only lobbies and mafia are permanent – go vernments may come and go. That inspector raj has been replaced by Company / contractor/ Broker Raj ; Sand mafia , Liquor mafia , Real estate mafia – nexus etcBureaucratic lobby, corprorate lobby, health and education lobbies et al ; This is so since there is no apolitical consensus or continutiy. Even on core issues. Thus we have politicians who’re Glorified Bureaucrats or camouflaged feudals /royals or both – self serving as a class and individuals – no real public servants.

In Covid 1.0 daily piecemeal info was selectively shared – which is good PR but in the lack of context the overall picture distorted. Piecemeal as well as bigger picture is a must for public education.Towards the end , a draft roadmap was presented – it might mitigate it somewhat inCorona 2.0

Media in Corona 1.0 too copied best regional and national trends.Traditional weaknesses got underlined ; no detailed ground reporting , nor Editorials . Judiciary too showed no proactive / suo moto traits. Whether about cabinet or about subversion,- only highpoint was actively restoring the appointments by Kamalnath to Women Commission, Backward classes commission etc. In the intervening period of laws being made , judicial decisions make the base.Activists exhibitedno coordinated action , NGOs duplicated government work than supplementing it.At the social front – Colonies , RWA ’s worked actively but not in an inclusive, participatory manner – that’s why non- compliance was the norm than exception outside the gated communities.

In the first semester of Shivraj 4.0 Coronation Virus has trumped Corona…merely changing as promised by Shivraj is not enough – the situation requires transformation….Short of that Shivraj runs the risk of becoming the worst ever CM of the state in Covid 2.0. – from being the worst performing BJP CM in Covid 1.0. Could kamalnath have done better ?– Not necessarily, but collectively the government may have been better if it had taken the opposition along.

Covid 2.0 re quires a drastic change in approach. Hopefully, after bypolls the state would get at least a functional government if not an efficient one- any hopes of an active or proactive ex ecutive have evaporated in the first semester… The proclamation of converting this crisis into an opportunity in not merely tough – it is impossible. ( That is done by governments with credibility / Iqbaal.). Even to preclude slipping down requires an approach of coepitition ( competition -cum cooperation) – with the opposition. The first Vidhan Sabha Session post by polls must ratify the vision- cum roadmap, by integrating Kamalnath’s Vison with Shivraj’s roadmap . Both have been drafted with public money and have inputs of the same bureaucracy ; so there no patent on ownership – they belong to M.P. and are an intellectual property of the state. Among its key points the roadmap includes leveraging CSR , One district one product , H eaith and Edu cation to be top priorities, creating jobs around agriculture (than in agri cuture ) etc. .. Though a good intiative it could fall short in the absence of a clearly enunciated and communicated Vision.Hence the integration with Kamalnath’s vision which talks of economic activity along with GDP growth ; Employment generation alongwith improving employability etc. After years of stumbling and fumbling both have got somewhat of a sensible draft .Earlier they called it rising , magnificent , emerging , Golden – all of which didn’t communicate much…Now Shivraj talks of making M.P No. 1 -the best while Nath speaks of a Unique/ special M.P . Both combined makes a lot of sense As Vishesh No. 1 .M.P– meaning a state which is best in select areas and unique in others . No state can be best in all aspects nor can it be unique in each respect.To implement it ,a committed -cum- dedicated bureaucracy is required.Mishandling of Covid 1.0 has left the workforce tired and unmotivated .While some have been rewarded and awarded upfront – more should follow.Immediately. Evennow , if the government wishes to salvage the situation they must compensate the front line workers and covid warriors of Covid 1.0 upfront before proceeding onto Covid 2.0

The media too has a doubly critical role in Covid 2.0 – no single pillar of democracy would be enough .. It must get hyperlocal in reporting and policy and issue /programme focussed at the editorial level.Judiciary must take a call on being both proactive as well preventive – on health as well as livelihood issues -at least during the covid period.

Citizens too must realize that just as Politics today is a 24/ 7 job , being a citizen too is a 24/7 responsibility- only difference being that politicians have to care for a vast area while the citizen has to concentrate on a limited section. Wthout being vigilant he is reduced to a mere voter – which can be manipulated once in five years around elections.

After the one year mark it’ll need at least two more years to take off – one year to get back to the pre -covid status and another to build upon it .Thus till the end of 2022 / mid 2023 – practically the entire remaining term-Citizens and residents have to be doubly vigilant as must activists and advocacy groups ; media and judiciary ought to be proactive NGO and voluntary organisations have to be hyperactive compared to other Hindi belt states.

Madhya Pradesh has always been considered back of the beyond – Even Nehru had quipped at its odd looking map.Pandemic could make it Ajeeb- Gareeb or Vishesh No1.This is a historical juncture for everyone – the way parties behave in the by polls would impact a generation , manner of Pandemic handling by the government ( whichever party ) will influence at least two generations and the way citizens behave in both will set the template of M.P. for a century.

Once in a Millennium chance / crisis the opportunity of leapfrogging from Sucharu ( Well go verned)/ Emerging to Dudharu/ Samruddha ( P ro sp erous)/ Rising in a short span is lost. The chance of converting it into an opportunity is over ;now the battle is to prevent slipping back – as all poor people do after their first health emergency.Now that there has been a below par performance in COVID 1.0 , it’ll require twice the effort in COVID 2.0 to even retain the pre- covid status .Converting crisis into normalcy is the best case scenario …The chance for converting it into an opportunity has been missed. In the worst case scenario the state would slip back to BIMARU…a generational BIMARU or even a chronic BIMARU.