Home is important and Bhagwant Mann knows this well
Bhagwant Mann assumes charge of the office of the Chief Minister of Punjab in Chandigarh on March 16, 2022
By Venkatesh Raghavan
Bhagwant Mann, who swore in as the 18th Chief Minister of Punjab at the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh, Khatkar Kalan, has a task in hand. He is the first non-Congress-non-Akali Dal CM of the state who enjoys an unprecedented mandate that saw 92 of his men elected to the 117-member Punjab Legislature in the just-concluded State Assembly polls. Three days after his swearing-in, he inducted 10 other members into his cabinet at a solemn ceremony at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh on March 19, 2022.
The landslide verdict in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with Bhagwant Mann emerging as the new Punjab Chief Minister, is seen by many as a sharp swerve from the bipolar politics that prevailed in the state for decades together. However, the roots of the poll verdict breaking free from its traditional bipolar roots were sown in 2017, when AAP emerged as the runner up to the Congress and the Akalis were relegated to the third position.
Unlike in the instance of Delhi where the AAP has limited administrative control with the all-important law-and-order front being assigned to the Union home ministry, the AAP has now succeeded in forming its government with full-fledged control over a state. This is observed as a breakaway from the traditional pattern that has resulted in a paradigm power shift. With more people talking about how AAP has started expanding its influence, after negotiating the ups and downs in its political fortunes, all eyes are now on Mann. In other words, how will Mann deliver on the performance parameters that count in evaluating his Party’s first ruling stint in the state?
Also read: The factors behind the building of the AAP wave in Punjab
To the observers who are not new to Punjab politics, Mann has had a reputation for taking a staunch anti-establishment stand in his political orations right from the word go. After a brief stint with a local political party way back in 2011, Mann switched to AAP soon after the party was formed. Mann who is expected to deliver on the governance count is reported to have vouched for adopting the Delhi model, in the areas of education and health care. However, the challenges the state of Punjab is facing with menacingly increased mafia presence and rampant drug abuse cases look to be the real acid test for the new Chief Minister.
For AAP as a part of its poll platform had stressed a transparent mechanism to curb the rising influence of crime cartels that operate from the state in collusion with drug barons and mafia elements that foment a flourishing narco-trade, both within the state and outside its borders. It may be recalled that during the years of bipolar power games that lasted in Punjab, a deep-rooted mafia-politician nexus had allegedly bitten into the state’s crumbling social order. Those who were witness to the pattern are now looking up expectantly to Mann, after the recent change in guard.
Mann’s manifesto to act strictly on the rampant drug trading and narco abuse instances in the state will also require the support of the bureaucracy and the state administrative mechanism for an efficient implementation. This is where Mann’s administrative skills and his political will to act tough with power lobbies that get funded by the narco trade needs to make its difference felt.
Not surprisingly, therefore, in the first Cabinet meeting on Saturday, March 19, out of the 25,000 government jobs that the Mann government-approved, 10,000 were for various posts in Punjab Police, while the remaining jobs were in various departments, boards and corporations of the government. That Mann has kept the Home portfolio with himself, also indicates the significance that his government gives to law and order in the state.
The AAP has managed a stiff climb in Punjab politics, right from the time Mann was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2014 General Elections. Following the ups and downs it encountered in the subsequent years, before hitting the jackpot with a landslide win in Punjab, Mann will now be expected to shoulder a major responsibility in ensuring that AAP sets a new benchmark in a full-fledged state administration. Mann is now being tried on whether he can make other state electorates look up and take notice, and all eyes are already now set on the forthcoming elections in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The work done by Mann can well be reflected in the AAP’s fortunes in Shimla too.
– with inputs from global bihari bureau