For the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won its first electoral victory in Punjab four months ago, a lack of administrative experience and some “restless” first-time legislators have already made the chief a candidate. It has posed a big challenge. Minister Bhagwant Mann, who seems to be slipping from one administrative “shock” to another.
The latest incident is that of his Health Minister Chetan Singh Joramajra, who caused a storm when he forced Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) Vice-Chancellor Dr Raj Bahadur to lie on a damaged mattress. . Staff and patients during an inspection at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot.
A video of the minister pushing the eminent surgeon on a mattress triggered a row with opposition parties demanding the former’s resignation. Although the chief minister admitted that the incident was unfortunate, he accused his opponents of giving it a “political edge”.
Despite AAP’s claim that the minister was worried about the lack of cleanliness in the hospital, the optics clearly did not benefit the government. As regional TV channels played Dr Raj Bahadur’s video, Mann – overseeing the government’s drive to illegally grab 2,828 acres of prime land from 15 influential encroachers – failed. The damage was done.
Almost 150 days have passed in Punjab, such incidents have put AAP in the firing line for its alleged lack of managerial experience. Officials say first-time lawmakers are often “crossing the line” too much. A senior officer commented, “They are just not able to understand that they are in power and need to be more tactful in dealing with officials.
Officials lamented that lines are being crossed brazenly. Earlier this month, AAP MLA from Jalandhar West, Sheetal Angural, drew the ire of officers when he went to Jalandhar’s district administrative office and tried to pull staff and officials while going live on his Facebook page. Even as they publicly reprimanded officers for making allegations of corruption, angry officials went on strike. Angural was forced to apologize to officials to return to work.
“Legislators are fighting among themselves. They cannot insult the officials who are in the field of implementing the schemes. There is growing frustration over how the ministers and MLAs are treating the officers,” he said. The alleged leader of the opposition in the assembly, Pratap Singh Bajwa, said.
The opposition alleges that the chief minister seems to have lost control of his flock. “He needs to rein them in before it’s too late,” said a senior Akal Dal leader.
On July 13, a video of AAP MLA from Ludhiana South, Rajendra Pal Kaur Chinna, went viral in which she was seen scolding a police officer on duty for conducting a search in her constituency. The MLA was heard questioning the lady officer that her permission was not taken before the search.
With growing disquiet at the official level with the elected government, some bureaucrats are looking for a “way out”.
Half a dozen IAS officers of Punjab cadre have sought central deputation. Those who opted for central deputation after Mann took over include Ronit Kaur of 1988 batch, Anirudh Tiwari of 1990 batch, Seema Jain of 1991 batch, KAP Sinha of 1992 batch, S Karuna Raju of 1998 batch and 2000 batch. Beach’s Rahul Tiwari is included.
To make matters worse for the Mann government, there are frequent resignations of top legal officers. Just four months after his appointment, senior advocate Anmol Ratan Singh Sidhu resigned as Advocate General. Although he cited “personal reasons”, many believed his resignation was more than just a personal decision.
Sources said Sidhu’s exit coincided with an unusual delay in finalizing the list of law officers who would work with him. Despite taking over as AG about four months ago, the team could not be finalised.
The government had extended the contract period of the existing law officers in March and the process of their appointment was started soon after. But the list was never finalised.
“The government may yet come to grips with the fact that it is not the opposition and stop looking at the entire bureaucracy with suspicion. The government cannot implement its governance agenda if it is repeatedly at loggerheads with the administration. ,” one officer commented.
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