Khanduri faces tough task ahead as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun: Maj Gen (retd) Bhuvan Chand Khanduri, who was sworn in as the 6th chief minister of this tiny mountain state today, (twice in a period of less than five years) after his unceremonious exit in June 2009, following rebellion against his style of functioning by a former chief minister and some party legislators, faces a challenging task to revamp the administration in a last-ditch effort to uplift the declining image and popularity graph of the BJP in Uttarakhand.

Needless to say, with just about six months for the Vidhan Sabha elections in Uttarakhand which are due in Feb next year, Khanduri will require all his administrative skills to rope in a wayward bureaucracy and stem the rot of corruption that seems to be prevalent in every nook and corner of the government machinery.

BC Khanduri

In fact, it was the scams that marked the over two year tenure of Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and the reports of all round corruption that forced the BJP high command to replace Khanduri.

Despite the fact that he enjoyed a “clean” image as surface transport minister in the NDA government at the centre, Khanduri’s first tenure as chief minister did not come to the expectations of the masses in particular. While a section of the bureaucracy and party legislators may have been disenchanted because his ‘autocratic’ (or should it be said military type) of functioning, the people in general saw nothing happening at the ground level.

Things just faded from bad to worse with no development activities worth mentioning happening, nor any programmes being taken up whose benefits could percolate down to the grass root level.

While Khanduri’s supporters maintain that the party high command was fully confident that the former army man could deliver the goods in the short time, which was why he had been placed at the helm yet again, his detractors feel that that Khanduri has no magic wand to bring a complete turn about the battered and bruised image of the party in this short span of time.

“The little charishma that Kahnduri enjoyed with the masses has been washed away as his first term as chief minister was a complete write off and the people generally got disillusioned with him. This was evident from the fact that the BJP lost all five seats in the l;ast Lok Sabha elections, which was why he was replaced by the party high command and as things go today, the party is all set for a drubbing in the state vidhan sabha elections next February”, said M N Bahuguna a retired employee.

Another challenge that the new chief minister will face is finding clean fades whom he can induct in the cabinet, which is important to spread the message that he means business.

As corruption has of late become the ban of this tiny mountain state with the people having to pay ‘suvidha shulk’ for every thing in almost all the government offices and the staff complaining that the cut goes to the top, a complete revamp of the government image is a must.

The all important question is whether Khanduri will be able to mange to induct clean faces in his new cabinet, as almost every face seems to have allegations of corruption against him or her.

Nailing the bureaucracy, which has been wayward ever since this state was born in 2000 is said to be the scourge of Uttarakhand. With not even one per cent of the top bureaucratic echelon being son of the soil, there are neither loyalties nor love for the land.

Further a major section of the bureaucracy that opted to serve in Uttarakhand after the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 was one that the parent state was happy to get rid off, as they faced allegations of inefficiency or corruption.

Khanduri had alienated himself from the bureaucracy during his first tenure because of which it is said that not much happened at the grass root level, will he be able to take the risk again.

Last but not the least, will his senior cabinet colleagues let him function without putting road blocks. Last time it was former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshyuiari who put road blocks for the chief minister, but this time he has supported Khanduri in being named the chief minister.

But it is being presumed that Khanduri could face problems from Nishank, the man he replaces. For it must not be forgotten that it was Khanduri himself who had proposed the name of Nishank, when he was being removed, but the latter not only sidelined him, but also held him responsible for the major gaffes in government functioning.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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