Punjab Governor-designate Vijyendrapal Singh Badnore is going to take the oath of office and secrecy on Monday afternoon at the sprawling Punjab Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh. He will also be holding an additional charge of UT Administrator, just as his predecessors used to.The announcement of Badnore’s appointment as Punjab Governor, made four days back, was taken by all in a routine course with little excitement to know about his profile but the declaration of him being handed over the additional charge of UT Administrator definitely waded through a hue and cry that even rocked the politics of Punjab and Union Territory Chandigarh.
Before Badnore’s name as UT administrator the Union government had ‘informally’ appointed Kerala’s bureaucrat-turned-politician KJ Alphons Kannanthanam as the first independent Administrator for Chandigarh. Though the official letters were yet to be released, Alphons had got a call from the minister concerned to “pack the bag for Chandigarh” but it did not go down well and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab ally Shiromani Akali Dal, that is in power in Punjab, raised the flag of ‘revolt’ without any delay.
On seeing the move to devise a new administrative setup for Chandigarh leading to an uproar, the Central Government also quickly came in a fire fighting mode and took the U-turn. Without wasting much time, it decided not to go ahead with the appointment of an independent Administrator and the same day the previous decision was put on hold, mentioning that the things were just a proposal stage from where these were taken back.
It was interesting to learn that there was no consultation with the Punjab Government when the Union Home Ministry at first decided to devise the new administrative setup for Chandigarh, which is the capital of Punjab and Haryana. So, the emergence of political repercussions was quite obvious as the matter was related to disrupting the 32-year-old practice of having the Punjab Governor as the Chandigarh Administrator.
The five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who holds his position in the NDA, deserves appreciation, at least from Punjabis, for being quick to react and probably his resentment that would be quite sharp and strong made the Union Home Ministry agree “not to disturb the time-tested convention” and leaving the UT administration in the hands of Punjab Governor only.
Insiders say that having realised that the Punjab Chief Minister and his party-Shiromani Akali Dal-were quite particular over the issue as they have shed blood in the past while launching ‘morchas’ over Chandigarh and other territorial and water issues, the Union Government opted for not straining the relations between the coalition partners.
Only after the realisation was drawn that such a major issue being implemented without even consultation that too just months before the state going to Vidhan Sabha polls could come as a disaster, the Government of India (GoI) took its step back, suggests the sequence of the things, which ultimately enabled the SAD government in Punjab to boast its achievement.
Though the boasting can’t be so loud this time as the SAD is an ally in NDA and SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal is Union Minister in Narendra Modi’s government, still, at some level the party is trying to derive gain of forcing the GoI to bow before the patriarch’s protest.
On the parallel, the Centre’s U-turn left the politicians and people of Chandigarh as they were in the favour of having a separate administrative head to redress the city’s issues saddened. Facing the city problems going complicated with multiple power centres emerging in the UT, this particular section wanted more than a part-time Administrator-cum-Governor but the things could not move ahead of a brief smile.
In the whole episode it is an interesting observation that the neighbouring state Haryana did not react much, despite the fact the Chandigarh was also its Capital. For political observers, it was just another instance in the past nine-and-a-half-year rule of SAD-BJP combine in Punjab when the neighbour seriously countered it on any account.
No doubt the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue brought the two states against each other in the court, if one reads between the lines the friendly BJP governments of Haryana and at the Centre provided a rare opportunity to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to emerge bigger with his one political stroke after another. And his political party (SAD) that is in a poll gear is now trying its best to publicise the ‘achievements’ of 88-year-old Badal, obviously sensing its value in the vote-bank politics.
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