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Posted at: Apr 16, 2017, 12:08 AM; last updated: Apr 16, 2017, 1:24 AM (IST)

What’s the CM up to?

Naveen S Garewal in Chandigarh
Why does Manohar Lal Khattar look so offish these days? “He is not even smiling enough,” wonders a senior officer in the Haryana Secretariat. The other day the Chief Minister almost lost his cool when a group of Panchkula children gathered at his residence in Chandigarh to earn his appreciation for their theme paintings on ‘Yoga for achieving peace of mind’. “We were humiliated when a request was made for a group photograph. The CM shouted at his staff asking them who had arranged the meeting, and that such photo ops could have waited for official work,” an eyewitness said. The Janata Darbar was quite a spectacle for everyone there.

It’s easy to know Khattar, admit his loyalists as well as detractors within and outside the BJP, because he has virtually nil experience in governance. That’s perhaps why in 2014 the first BJP government under his leadership coined the slogan ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’. Then the Jat agitation happened. The entire administrative machinery collapsed. Even now there is no knowing what the state government would do — placate or infuriate the community.

The CM since taking over then has made 3,500 announcements, according to a government statement on the floor of the House. But it has acted only on 34% of those fine words. One such announcement was on public healthcare. The CM had announced a medical college each in all districts. The fact is most district hospitals do not have intensive care units, forget medical colleges.

The CM, at best or worst, has struggled to understand the mechanism of governance. One aspect of which is checking corruption, about which even party legislators have struggled to be heard. BJP’s Gurugram MLA, Umesh Aggarwal, has raised several cases related to corruption in the government, but he has been “ignored.” Aggarwal sensed corruption in power meter purchase in the department headed by Khattar. Then he raised “wrongdoings” through mutation of Gurugram Municipal land. And then again, Aggarwal saw change in Metro route in Gurugram benefiting certain individuals. But the CM has remained more or less quiet.

Everybody outside his government says the state is being remote-controlled from Delhi through the RSS. Despite that, 16 of the 47 party MLAs rose in revolt against Khattar, saying their position was worse than that of an opposition MLA. The common grouse is that deputy commissioners or district police chiefs don’t take their calls or listen to the people-oriented works that they take to the local administration.

Like Khattar, his cabinet colleagues too have little or no experience in running a government. As a result, the bureaucracy is virtually calling the shots. In the last 30 months, almost all 22 districts have seen at least three deputy commissioners and three police chiefs. The situation in the 47 sub-divisions is no better. Places like Pehowa have seen five SDMs holding charge under the Khattar Government so far. Yamunanagar has had 5 SPs, some lasting as little as three months.

The Supreme Court has asked Haryana and Punjab to sort out the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal dispute. Sources say the Khattar government is not well-prepared to present its case before the Prime Minister who has invited both states to present their case to him on April 20. 

On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh seems better placed as he is already conversant with the facts because it was he who had brought the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004.

“The CM is definitely fighting to keep a slight load of a smile on his face,” quips a BJP activist.


Opposition scores a point

"Khattar could neither prove to be a good CM nor a good administrator. He has wasted three years without achieving anything. And now his leadership is being challenged by his own men, which is affecting governance in the state." — Kuldeep Sharma, Congress Leader and Ex-Speaker

"Since Khattar came to power, people have seen a lot of Utsavs (festivities) -- Gita Utsav, Saraswati Utsav or Swarna Jayanti Utsav. The government has merely worked towards increasing the debt." — Ashok Arora, State INLD President

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