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Kickstarter for the new CM of Punjab

Kickstarter for the new CM of Punjab

Guest Column: Overlapping and blurred distinction of delegated authority has been one of the root causes of corruption and poor administration. There should be a clear distinction between the legislative authority of politicians and authority of the executive branch of the government.

Congratulations to chief minister Bhagwant Mann, Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal, and the MLAs; more importantly to the people of Punjab who voted for issues, change, hope and honesty in a break from the trend of voting for personalities, or based on religion or caste viz Sikhs voting for Akalis, Hindus for the BJP, Dalits for the BSP, farmers for the United Morcha; and to voters who did not follow the deras. The change is indeed an inquilab or a quiet revolution against corrupt and arrogant politicians turned goons.

There is a mountain of challenges and responsibilities that will be viewed under the lens and floodlights by critics, wounded political opponents and public alike. But there is also a silver lining of opportunities. This is a fresh start. The new CM should grasp what to do, how to do, who will do what and keep a big yardstick to measure the progress and performance of his cabinet.

Moving forward, based on my experience, here is my brief and unsolicited advice:

1) Transition with priority and planning: The new administration should take account of the status quo condition of all departments. It would offer a standard for comparison in the future.

Promises made are only as good as promises kept. To keep up, a strategic plans document must be prepared since it will be the basis of the line of action and can be made available to all stakeholders to ensure they are on the same page and at the same pace. Remember the 6 Ps: Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.

The documents and committees are effective tools and must secure the trust of the entire team. Certain cabinet committees should be constituted of able members and be chaired by the CM or Deputy CM and should have well-defined mandates. The most important committee should be the P&P (priority and planning) committee that would direct the cabinet, MLAs and the bureaucracy and control the agenda and its implementation.

2. Legislative process and governance: The number of new or rookie MLAs is high, many of them being inexperienced in legislative process and governance. There should be no hesitation in giving them appropriate training orientation.

Important roles of the House leader, whip, caucus chair, speaker and cabinet committee chairs, should not be undermined. These leaders will be instrumental in keeping the order, effectiveness and contribute to accomplishment of policy. Legislation, regulation, or statutory instruments can be grouped into good, bad and ugly. The good need to be promoted, the bad need to be improved, and the ugly need to be repealed. Proper legislation and the new statutory regime would minimise red tape, overlapping and ineffective regulation and procedures.

Introducing legislation such as accountability Act, legislative committees like public accounts, and scrutiny of regulation would be a good start. Introducing the new legislation or improving old ones would be a continuous process and a key measurement to prove effectiveness and accomplishments of the AAP government in Punjab.

3. Transforming political culture: This is a golden opportunity to implement change. The VIP culture of laal batti cars, gunmen for status, power or sense of authority should be mitigated. The principle of no one is above the law is not a cliché rather it must start from the top. Preferential treatment and favouritism or sifarash must end.

An MLA is the MLA for all constituents. MLAs should set up constituency offices – not a political office. At the constituency offices, MLAs and their staff should listen to the concerns of the constituents to assist and serve them. The ministers and MLAs should not be preoccupied with just ribbon-cutting, attending marriages or bhog ceremonies. Cabinet ministers should be appointed based on their ability, capability, and loyalty; and not based on who defeated who, or their margin of victory. Their staff should also be qualified, experienced administrators capable of counsel, liaison and fact-based research.

4. Appoint ethics commissioner: The chief minister may be honest himself, but it’s also his responsibility to ensure that all around him are honest, too. Then prime minister Manmohan Singh was perceived to be honest, but he was surrounded by some corrupt colleagues.

The appointment of an ethics commissioner to deal with ethical breaches is the need of the times. Restoring discipline, punctuality, and following of rules would be an integral part of restoring order. Corruption must be tackled head-on, from top to bottom, in bureaucracy and police. Overlapping and blurred distinction of delegated authority has been one of the root causes of corruption and poor administration. There should be a clear distinction between the legislative authority of politicians and authority of the executive branch of the government, and of bureaucracy. IAS and IPS officers should work professionally and independent of political interference.

5. Work independently: The CM of Punjab and the CM of Delhi are different, and independent from each other, and must be perceived to be so. Any potential interference would bring conflict of interest issues to the fore for unwanted criticism. The CM of Punjab should stand alone and work independently, and must not be perceived as a lapdog of the AAP convener and the Delhi CM (an excuse for criticism). Bhagwant Mann must transform himself from an artiste to a chief minister, and leader. He should run his government as secular as possible – free of influences of religions, castes or regions. He should attempt uniting people rather than dividing them further. His demeanour and speeches have to be meaningful, to the point and strategic.

6. Capitalising on NRIs : Certain issues are priority and must be dealt with in all seriousness and in a timely manner. Many issues would need time to be tackled with patience and resolve. A large number of Punjabis living abroad are keenly looking forward to Punjab and the welfare of Punjabis. The NRIs are de facto ambassadors to build bilateral relations and a huge resource for the development of Punjab in terms of financial, technical, social and cultural resources. Capitalising on NRIs would be a useful objective. One term may not be enough to implement the intended change; therefore, the goal should be to win the next election based on the performance of the CM and his cabinet.

Be cautious of unforeseeable dirty tactics – disturbances to destabilise the state; division within the party; trust others but verify; getting lost in routine and leaving behind promises and priorities; losing control over bureaucracy; protect and maintain image; seek strategic advice only from trusted individuals (hire them if needed); build credible allies in Punjab, India, abroad and across industries, media and intelligentsia.

It’s a marathon, one step at a time; but be laser-focused and remember where you are heading with your government.

©Hindustan Times

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