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Return to popular rule - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
11 February 1997

Title : Return to popular rule
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 11, 1997

The victory of the Akali Dal (Badal)-BJP combine in Punjab is
nothing short of spectacular. It re-establishes the fact that the
Congress victory in the previous election was an aberration and a
miscarriage of democracy. From the electorate's point of view the
Akali-BJP Government will be the first real popular Government
Punjab will have since Surjit Singh Barnala triumphed on the back
of the Rajiv-Longowal accord. This is an indication of the
enormity of the challenge before Prakash Singh Badal. The heavy
price the Congress had to pay for corruption and inefficiency that
characterised its five-year rule should also serve as a warning of
the pitfalls that await the coalition lest it should go astray.
The Akali Dal has reason to be exuberant as it has on its own won
nearly two-thirds of the seats. But then if the proclivity of its
leaders to indulge in factional squabbles and one-upmanship is
anything to go by, Badal, has a pretty difficult job on hand.
Besides, this time he has to keep the BJP, which helped the Akalis
to register the kind of victory they achieved, in good humour.
Though the Akalis are not dependent on the BJP's support, it is in
their own long-term interest to keep the alliance intact, not least
to keep the hotheads in the party in check. Despite the sinister
efforts made in the past to break the age-old relationship between
the Sikhs and the Hindus, they have always remained one. The
alliance is an eloquent proof of that unity and it bodes well for
the State. Equally important will be to keep the SGPC from
interfering in the affairs of governance.

A major task for the new Government is to restore the time-tested
norms of governance. The growth of militancy and the challenges it
posed necessitated lowering of standards, which some corrupt and
power-crazy officials and politicians pounced upon, either to line
their pockets or to derive sadistic pleasure. If under such
circumstances, the impression gained ground that accountability in
Government was a thing of the past, it could not be helped. The
new Government will have to address this problem on a war footing
if it is to restore the people's confidence in the rule of law and
all that it implies. While it should be said to the credit of the
people that even at the height of terrorism, they did not allow
agricultural and industrial production to fall, the Government
cannot be oblivious of certain negative trends in these two key
sectors. Punjab is still the nation's grain bowl, but production
of food-grains has ceased to grow. In fact, a negative growth rate
has begun to be noticed in this sector mainly because of saturation
of the production capacity and growing infertility of the soil
because of overuse of pesticides and fertiliser. The industrial
scene in the State has undergone little change with the traditional
industries barely managing to survive even as neighbouring Haryana
has stolen a march over it.

While the decimation of the Congress prevents it from playing any
major role in the coming years, the ruling parties at the Centre
will do well not to harass the Akalis, as has been the case in the
past. The task of reconstruction is quite formidable but what makes
it feasible is the size of the mandate the Akali Dal-BJP alliance
has got.

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