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CM Rawat snapping at teacher symptomatic of the arrogance of Uttarakhand's ruling class

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 30 June 2018, 18:37 IST

With the video of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat snapping at a school teacher in his 'Janata Darbar', ordering her detention and suspension going viral, it is yet another moment of embarrassment for the government in Uttarakhand as it continues to draw flak from all corners. Uttara Bahuguna, a 57-year-old school principal wanted to be transferred to Dehradun after having spent more than two decades in the remote Uttarkashi district. Her loud exchange of words with Rawat was caught on camera with the latter ordering action against her.

Ironically, Rawat's own wife Sunita Rawat who is also a teacher was reportedly transferred out of a difficult station within four years of service and has been working in Dehradun ever since. The wives of several other politicians from various parties and also of officers have been enjoying plum postings at places of their choice.

But all this should not come as a surprise because this is not the first instance of the people of this hill state being failed by the government. In almost two decades of its existence the honest, sincere and hard-working people of this small hill state have been let down repeatedly by both its political and administrative class.

The state of affairs makes one ponder why carving out a small state which was meant for providing ideal governance to the underdeveloped parts of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh has proved to be a failed experiment where the issues that were meant to be addressed remain the same as a sense of dejection and disillusionment has set in the common folk.

How would one explain the conduct of the political class in this state that has seen nine changes to the top post of chief minister in just 18 years of its existence? One also needs to recount what have these nine folk been famous or infamous for.

It was on November 9, 2000 that the state had come into existence with Nityanand Swami being the first chief minister. A RSS man, Swami was never allowed to settle by his fellow Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. His cabinet colleagues Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank had initially refused to take oath. His short stint was marked by setting the house in order and all this while Koshiyari, Nishank and others kept up the pressure to get him replaced on the grounds that he was a 'non Pahari'.

Just before the 2002 polls, Koshiyari managed to replace him. He had nothing to show during his short tenure that lasted just four months.

The BJP was in for a massive shock in the first Assembly polls of 2002 that saw the people voting for the Congress. It was the son of the soil Narayan Datt Tiwari who became the chief minister. Ironically, here was a man who had once reportedly said that Uttarakhand would come into existence over his dead body. But still, he is seen as a leader who did make efforts for the betterment of this hill state despite the fact that corruption spiraled. During his tenure it was none other than his own party man Harish Rawat who acted as the main opposition. Yet Tiwari remains the only leader till now to have completed a full five year term as the state's chief minister.

Power once again went back to the BJP in the 2007 polls and this time it was Major General (Retired) BC Khanduri who was made the chief minister. Khanduri had a successful term as the surface transport minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee led NDA government in the Centre. He tried his bit to bring around some improvements. He was the man who brought about a transfer law in the state which is yet to be implemented properly. But his trying to run the state government like a 'Military Brigade' and being misled by his bureaucrats proved to be his bane. Besides his tenure was marked by frequent imposition of electoral model code of conduct. With the BJP getting whitewashed in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, he was replaced by Nishank. This time again it was the Koshiyari-Nishank duo at work.

Nishank's tenure was disastrous as more effort was made to spruce up his image than on governance. Come to think of it, here was a man who set up a committee at a cost of several crores to search the mythological 'Sanjeevni Booti' in a scenario when many of the hospitals and dispensaries in the state were unable to provide even life saving drugs to the people. The search for the mythological plant continues in the successive tenures. Sycophants ruled the roost. His tenure was marked by withdrawals of controversial decisions.

Owing to his disastrous performance, the BJP faced the choice of being 'booted out' or 'voted out' in 2012 polls. Showing wisdom it chose the latter and brought back Khanduri who came up with a fighting performance. In his second tenure he displayed political will and commitment as he went around executing several road projects. He also introduced the Lokayukta Bill. But he lost his own seat in the polls, thanks to the sabotage from within the party.

In came Vijay Bahuguna as the next Congress chief minister. His tenure was lacklustre till the time the Kedarnath disaster struck. He started holding brief assembly sessions in Gairsain to fizzle out the agitation for having a permanent capital there. Observers say the tradition continues but at the same time shows the hypocrisy of the ruling governments as after four or five days everyone is back to Dehradun and the plains. “When the government itself does not want to go to the hills, how can it expect the people to remain there ? This reflects in villages being abandoned and employees not willing to work in 'difficult' areas,” points out a political observer based in Dehradun.

Bahuguna was replaced by Harish Rawat who went on to contest the next polls banking on the rehabilitation work done after the tragedy. His tenure again was marked by empty announcements and this resulted in his electoral loss from two seats, one in the hills and one in the plains.

After a landslide victory in 2017 polls, RSS grooming and closeness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP's national president Amit Shah saw the elevation of Trivendra Singh Rawat to the chief ministerial post. Observers say that his tenure also has nothing to project as a major achievement. He has been trying to emulate Modi in his mannerism and actions only to be smirked upon by his detractors.

“The perception is that he has become all the more arrogant after the recent win of the party in the Tharali by-poll and bringing Modi to Dehradun for the International Yoga Day event. Besides Shah was also in Dehradun a few days back. Many people refer to him as Chhota Shah,” pointed the political observer.

When such is the scenario of the political class, what can one expect from the administrative officials? Observers say that at the time of creation of the state some of the most incompetent an dishonest bureaucrats in erstwhile Uttar Pradesh opted for the Uttarakhand cadre and they have been calling the shots.

“The politicians are just bothered about getting their own petty works done and are inefficient at handling the officials. This has given an open field to the bureaucrats who keep them busy entangled in file work,” points out veteran political observer Jai Singh Rawat at Dehradun.

The successive governments have completely failed on the development front. There are no roads, proper education, health facilities and employment avenues. Majority of the villagers in the hill districts are surviving on the money order economy with their children getting enrolled in the defence forces. The migration from the villages continues unabated. This is expected when in certain villages people have to walk no less than 20 km to 27 km for even their basic requirements.

In such a scenario, a chief minister snapping at a woman employee is nothing short of insensitivity. “By showing sensitivity, he could have turned the episode to his advantage. But power has its side effects,” was a comment by an acquaintance on a social networking site and he was not wrong.

First published: 30 June 2018, 18:37 IST