RSS starts putting its stamp on Jairam Thakur govt in Himachal
Just over a month into the saddle and the stamp of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanhg (RSS) is pretty visible on the functioning of the Jairam Thakur-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Himachal Pradesh.
The hill state is the latest addition to other BJP-ruled states where the RSS is calling the shots and the functioning is keenly being monitored from the BJP headquarters in Delhi.
To begin with, the people of the state are pointing to the Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) appointed both in the office of the chief minister as well as those appointed by the ministers. There are three OSDs in the chief minister's office calling the shots while some others are working for different ministers.
These are people with strong Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and RSS grooming. The locals have started complaining of these people acting as firewalls and stonewalling the access to the chief minister and the ministers.
“Only those whom these people want can go and meet the top political leadership while the rest are denied the access. This was never the case in both the previous Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government and the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP governments. This is a new culture being established,” pointed a senior media professional who has been covering the state administration for almost two decades in Shimla.
Things have already come to a pass where the strains between the BJP workers from non RSS backgrounds and those who have risen through the RSS grooming have started becoming visible with the former feeling ignored. This is being expressed in sarcastic undertones.
“It is not just the OSDs who are ensuring that the RSS is having a grip over the administration but even the officials down the bureaucracy have started expressing that they are wary of certain faceless elements among them reporting the minutest of things up the ladder.
“The bureaucracy to a major extent has been aligned in the state either with the Congress and the BJP and this normally leads to the transfers to key posts of favourites whenever there is a change of guard. But the difference this time is the fear that is getting instilled in the officials who politically differ with the dispensation in power.
“The officials are wary that even the smallest of their actions would be reported to unknown quarters and there can be many unexpected ramifications,” pointed a political observer based in Shimla. All this is doing the rounds despite Thakur having asserted time and again that his government is not going to be vindictive towards anyone.
The state has been in for a surprise at the exceptionally high number of transfer that have been taking place in the little more than one month that this government has been in power.
“Can you imagine that there were 102 transfers ordered in a single day in a small state like Himachal Pradesh. One can understand the transfers at key posts at top level but this is across the board,” pointed a local media person.
Questions are also being raised at the 'double talk' of the government on issues like austerity. The people were surprised at the government coming out with a notification on appointment of a media advisor to the chief minister at a monthly emolument of Rs 1.44 lakh when there is a very efficient public relations department functioning in the state.
Just like other states, this is being seen as a tool to oblige a favourite among the local media. Similarly the people are questioning the creation of two additional posts in the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC) one of which is yet to be filled.
Sources say that with about only 1,000 posts to be filled through this commission in a year, even the earlier strength was more than that required. Sources say that there is hardly any work that would require the services of more members at fat salaries.
But this is once again a move to oblige some 'favourites'. In fact there is much surprise being expressed at the RSS not stepping in to check these post creations or having their own cadre posted against these posts.
Another issue that can be expected to snowball into a contentious political battle is the controversy over the government decision to close certain colleges and look into the school upgradations that were carried out during the fag end of the Congress regime.
The present government has been pointing that these colleges were opened with pure political motives with no staff and very small budget allocation. Hence they would serve no purpose. But at the same time Thakur announcing a new college for Jawali in Kangra on February 2 has raised a big question mark over his government's stand on this issue.
Observers also point that the functioning of this government is being keenly monitored from Delhi which gives weightage to the theory that this would be another remote control run administration of BJP's National President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi just like the one in the neighbouring state of Haryana.
Thakur has been meeting Union minister Jagat Prakash Nadda who hails from Himachal Pradesh apprising him of the developments in the state whenever he has been visiting Delhi. Recently Nadda had organised a lunch for all the Himachal cadre officials posted in Delhi and it was a made a point to publicize the event in the media.
Sources say that the new Chief Secretary Vineet Chaudhary is also close to Nadda. Observers say that these are just indication of bigger things to come before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Whether it will benefit the BJP in the long run remains to be seen.
Edited by Joyjeet Das