Follow Us:

New regime in Himachal Pradesh: Some pointers for things to come

Vepa Rao | Shimla |

One month is obviously too short to comment on the status of governance even in a small hill state like Himachal Pradesh.  But some indications from small, tentative steps taken so far have become noteworthy. People’s impressions, formed easily on the basis of small decisions and events, can often have long term effects — especially in this small hill state.

The new Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is a simple, honest person without any frills or political baggage. Affable and easy to approach, this clear- headed leader without a complex background has moved cautiously from the time he was sworn in on December 27, 2017. During his public speeches and conversations with people so far, he has been stressing his humble background – that he was a son of a mason and seen poverty from “close quarters”.

This, his supporters feel, has struck a chord amongst the common people – in contrast to the high profile chief ministers of the state in the past. But what remains to be seen in the coming months and years will be whether this 53- year-old leader will work with his feet firmly on the ground or succumb to the sycophancy of ‘chamchas’, ambitious opportunists and suchlike who will undoubtedly try to puff up his ego.

Whispers on the side-lines of his  own party circles have already aired some uncomplimentary things also. “He will have to do everything as dictated by the party high command in Delhi and he will not be left to his own wisdom”, say some party men while another retorts: “So what? All that matters is some good should happen to the state which is possible only with the Centre’s guidance and active assistance”. Obviously, many of his party men are yet to reconcile to the choice of Thakur as the state’s top boss in preference to better known leaders like Dhumal, and JP Nadda.

No one can doubt Thakur’s honesty and right intentions, as some of his actions in the last one month show. The minimum age for old age pension has been reduced from 80 to 70 years. Two days ago on the Statehood Day, his government  announced 8 per cent interim relief to employees and pensioners. Sensing a likely drought-like situation in the state because of scanty snowfall and rains this winter, the Chief Minister has already started planning steps to tackle the hardships this year.

The Centre has already sanctioned air connectivity between several far-flung areas in the state under the UDAN scheme at low fares. This long-awaited sanction is expected to promote tourism in the state in a big way. “We will not tolerate any mafia – be it the forest, drug or mining mafias,” he has also declared time and again.

Thakur has able and experienced ministers to implement the government’s agenda. His senior most minister in the Cabinet Mahender Singh (in-charge of Irrigation and Public Health and Sainik Welfare) is an action oriented man and  Thakur’s close confidante. So is Kishan Kapoor, the Gaddi leader with a fairly honest image and administrative experience. Suresh Bhardwaj with an intellectual streak and maturity is a very balanced and open-minded leader who has been given the charge of Education. He hit the nail on the head straightaway by directing his officials in the very first meeting by asking them to work out a viable transfer policy in the state’s biggest department.

Frequent, unreasonable pressures for transfers have been plaguing the education department all these decades and have contributed to the rather low quality of education in the state. All the other ministers in the Cabinet are fairly young and have the potential to work for the welfare of the people. Barring Anil Sharma, who had switched over from the Congress to BJP just before Assembly elections, all the other ministers are just around 50 years old.

The mass scale transfers of government officials at different levels has also become a talking point in the state – but it has become a norm with the change of government in most states. The Chief Minister has appealed to one and all not to touch his feet and “waste money” on presenting him with garlands, bouquets etc. If he does ensure that it is followed strictly, Himachal will have created history in the present democratic culture of India. Will it?