For better or worse, change is here

Shimla: It’s a strange mixture of sadness and joys to witnesses a change in government here in Himachal Pradesh and perhaps a time to reflect on how brittle power equations are, where loyalties are just like any other tradable commodities.

A walk to The Ridge where the swearing in ceremony of a new government was too take place, one could not but help the change in the working of public works staff, who appeared to have surfaced out of nowhere to clear roads of wayside dried plants, sprucing up railings with a fresh coat of whitewash and lay lime linings to mark the importance of a VIP road.

Walking past the Oakover, the official residence of the Chief Minister of the state, a full strength of 9 vehicle carcade crossed by with a loud hooter blowing and announcing that the Lady Governor – a nominee of the central government, was headed to The Ridge, to preside over the swearing in ceremony.

In place of number plates, some of the vehicles only had the mighty Ashoka Emblem on them while others did carry number registrations but the emblem, a symbol of governance power, was superimposed on other vehicles.

Some activity at the Oakover gate, made me turn around. The fortified stone and steel gate had proudly borne the brass nameplate of the previous chief minister for 5 years but now workers with hammer and a chisel were out working to remove it to make way for the new incumbents’ nameplate.

One could not help but reflect that the scenic residence of power was tied to something as brute a force as electoral mandate. It would be the same the world over, be it the White House or 10 Downing Street.

Overhearing one youngster talking loudly on the mobile phone about his party loyalties, made me wonder what joy he was driving by trying to prove his closeness to party that had won an election, even though the candidate he had supported had lost the elections.

Getting closer to the venue where the public function was being held, one found it difficult to get past the large crowds, all gathered to witness the change taking place on  a specially erected dais for the purpose of swearing a new chief minister and other ministers.

For those like me, too far removed from where the action was taking place, gazing at the large television screen hanging over the venue was the only way to witness ceremony.

The slice of power distributed within a brief hour, the celebrations, distribution of sweets and garlanding of the newly inducted ministers put me back to another December morning, five years ago, when a similar function was held to hand over the reins of power to the previous government.

A change in government was taking place here and now, but how much of this change translates into change in the lives of largely rural population in the hill state, one could not help but wonder.

A late afternoon walk through the corridors of power in the state secretariat, where a cabinet meeting of the newly inducted government was being held, just appeared to be some strange dream where the people and not the ministers had taken control of citadel of power.

Employees, whose loyalties are tied to government of the day, were out in strength to greet the new incumbents just as many of the same faces were there when the previous one, five years ago, had taken charge.

Not many drastic changes takes place in the lives of hill people who continue to struggle for better healthcare, a more sustainable livelihood borne out of shrinking farm lands and better employment avenues but the cake only shrinks further with passing of each government.

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As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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