AN OPEN LETTER TO PUNJAB CM; WRITER AN OLD COLLEAGUE
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ANSWER WHY MINISTERS ARE UNHAPPY?
Dear Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, I am writing this because given the state of democratic space within the Punjab Congress; others might not point out to you the 800-pound gorilla in the room where you hold your cabinet meetings.
As you know the law too well, in our electoral democracy, a Chief Minister has every right to sack a minister, or two ministers, or all the ministers. A Chief Minister can sack his entire cabinet. But a minister or two ministers or all the ministers put together cannot sack the Chief Minister.
That, Mr. Chief Minister, is the law. And that is the only reason that you are still a Chief Minister. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, your Cabinet has sacked you. All your ministers walked out of a pre-Cabinet meeting and holding a Cabinet meeting at a time when Punjab is struggling with a pandemic has become a near impossibility for you because you have lost the faith of the entire Cabinet. It is a remarkable feat for a Chief Minister as not a single chief minister in 73 years of India’s post-Independence contemporary political and electoral history has any chief minister suffered the ignominy of his entire Council of Ministers publicly displaying its lack of faith in their leader.
Mr. Chief Minister, you are the minister of Punjab Excise Department that regulates the licensing, manufacture, auction, sale, and distribution of liquor and liquor vends. You handpicked a Chief Secretary. You handpicked your ministers. Your ministers and your Chief Secretary cannot work together. Your Finance Minister has made public statements to say that he cannot be part of a Cabinet Meeting attended by your Chief Secretary. Your ministers have publicly demanded the sacking of Chief Secretary. Your ugly tamasha is competing with the Coronavirus Pandemic in television ratings, and so far, your TRP is far higher than the deadly virus. Your ministers are talking of major scam in the liquor. Everybody in Punjab knows how illicit liquor is being manufactured, distilled, and sold and how the state exchequer is being looted. Everybody knows that it cannot happen without full support from the top.
Everybody knows that the coterie around you is hand in glove with dirty elements. Now, even your ministers are talking about it from the rooftops. Your reputation, which was already in dire need for Oxygen, had to be wheeled into an ICU and put on a ventilator, but your ministers have now confirmed that it is dead and gone. Such is the fear of your image contaminating anyone it touches that no minister appears in public standing by you. Your ministers have made public announcements that not only have they lost all faith in you but also that they will maintain follow complete social distancing if you called a Cabinet Meeting with your indispensable Chief Secretary.
You tried to invite your MLAs to lunch but your MLAs faithfully followed social distancing. They have made it clear that the issue is far from resolved. You are trying to mask the truth but the truth has gone viral. The ugly truth of the liquor sector in Punjab has been widely exposed while you remain drunk in your power and well-known vices spread far and wide from Patiala to Chail to Saragarhi Farms to Pakistan in the company of your male and female friends.
Can you explain to the people of Punjab why you continue to be the Chief Minister? Can you explain to your party leadership why you continue to bring shame to it? Can you explain why your own party leadership never gives any example of your governance while Congress president Rahul Gandhi often cites his other chief ministers? Can you give one reason why you could not start the same Nyaya Scheme that Rahul Gandhi launched with fanfare in Chhatisgarh? The fact is that you are a big failure. Except of course on the Pakistan foreign policy front where you maintain deep contacts and carry on a cozy relationship right underneath the nose of India’s intelligence agencies.
But Sir, you can prove me wrong. in fact, this is your chance to prove me completely wrong. I dare you to try and do that. all you need to do is to issue a full report card of any one single department under you.
You are currently the Minister for Agriculture, Horticulture, Civil Aviation, Excise & Taxation, General Administration, Home Affairs, Power, Investment Promotion, Information & Public Relations, Legal & Legislative Affairs, Personnel, Environment, Vigilance, Wildlife, Science & Technology, Government Reforms, Information Technology, Renewable Energy and, please suppress your own laughter, Administrative Reforms. (I am sure the last department is something that you never knew existed.) Just pick up one department, any one department, and issue a complete report card of the functioning, your achievements, your targets, and your future plans for that department.
If you find this task too arduous, too onerous, or too beneath your royal dignity, allow me to make it even easier for you. Just stand in public, behind a microphone, and without looking at a piece of paper or your media advisor constantly looking over shoulder and whispering stuff you’re your ears, simply announce the names of all your departments, all the ministries of which you are a minister. but that will be too difficult for you, and i fully understand. so here is your golden chance, just like universities give a golden chance to all the students who cannot get even bare pass marks after repeated attempts. stand in public, and read from a piece of paper the names of all your ministries. even have your media advisor and your indispensable bureaucrats and police officers extend all help to you. I have no objection. I am sure the sheer shame at the fact of your non-performance in so many domains and aspects will be enough to make the people of Punjab realize what a travesty of a chief minister they are saddled within these challenging times.
Mr. Chief Minister, there is a reason people across the world need a mask these days. But there is an entirely separate reason that you need a mask on your face these days. It is not worth showing. You are contagious and contaminating material. Your closest ministers do not want to be near you. They do not want to work with you. They do not want to be in the same room as you. THEY WANT YOU OUT. SIMPLE.
Your only competitor is the Corona Virus. Some days Crona wins, but days you win. There are more headlines about ministers wanting to get rid of you than of people wanting to be rid of Corona.
My dear Amarinder Singh Ji, this is no way to remain as Chief Minister. I suggest you defeat the virus and get out before people come after you to unmask you.
As a friend, I can always suggest that you can claim that you were also a Minister of Hospitality, and you have proven your worth by being a great host to a guest from an inimical problem-creator neighboring Pakistan, but before making that claim, I also suggest that you discuss the matter with your family, that is, your wife and children, for whom I have great regards. Your well-wisher and old friend, Bir Devinder Singh
The writer of the letter is Bir Devinder Singh, a former deputy speaker of Punjab legislative assembly. He’s two times MLA and has vast experience in politics. For many years he was in the Congress party and now he is a senior vice president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali).