By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Sep 21 (IANS) The “decisiveness” in decision-making and “cutting red-tapism” of the Narendra Modi government at the centre will change the country’s governance system, Punjab’s powerful deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, feels.
“He is moving in the right direction. He has shown two-three things – decisiveness and cutting off red-tapism in decision making. That alone is the biggest and the most visible factor which is going to bring about a change in this system,” Badal told IANS in an interview here, as he analysed the Modi government’s completing 100 days.
Badal feels that the new government should be given at least six months to set things in order and settle down.
“After 10 years (of being in opposition), you just can’t take off. There is positivity now. We are positive. Give them another six months and you will see things happening. They will be more decisive as they will get a foothold in the government,” said Badal, who is also the president of Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal.
The Akali Dal is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and has a minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Sukhbir Badal’s wife), in the Modi government. The Akali Dal and the BJP have run an alliance government in Punjab since 2007.
“Earlier, things like road projects used to go to the road transport ministry, the Planning Commission, the feasibility committee of five secretaries, GoM (Group of Ministers) and then the cabinet. Now, till Rs.1,000 crore ($164 million), the minister is competent (to sanction projects). No Planning Commission, no GoM. Things are getting cut down from two years to just a few days. They are giving power (to ministries) to take decisions,” Badal said.
Criticised by the opposition Congress in Punjab for being unable to get any package for the state from the centre, Badal has a different take on it.
“I think we are already getting results. Within one to two months we have got road project clearances worth Rs.10,000 crore. People look at ‘ki sannu paisa kina bhejeya hai’ (how much money has the centre given us). In the next 2-3 months, the tendering would be completed. In two years’ time, we will be the only state where every major town connected with a four-lane expressway,” a confident Badal said.
He said that urban infrastructure projects worth Rs.8,000 crore were being sent to the centre for approval soon.
“Earlier nothing used to happen. We now have access to the (central) government which was completely denied earlier. We have an administration which listens, which never used to listen before. We were not welcomed before. That’s the difference,” he pointed out.
The Punjab government, headed by 86-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (Sukhbir Badal’s father), was recently put on the back-foot after union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wrote a letter saying that Punjab could not be given more funds.
“People don’t want to understand in what context the letter is. Our issues are different. We will take it up with the prime minister and the finance minister. There are certain things we want to showcase which are based on the experience of the previous years of militancy and other things. We will convince them,” he said.
Badal said that the governance and industrial reforms would bring more investment to Punjab.
“We have already got 90 projects cleared. Investment of Rs.7,000-Rs.8,000 crore is coming. This was worked out in just four months as the (Lok Sabha) elections came in between. This month, I am planning to go to various places to attract investment,” he said.
Badal has ordered the Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion to secure clearances from various departments within 30 days for new investment projects.
“We have a single window system for industry. You don’t have to go to all concerned departments. Just one person for all clearances,” he said.
Himself a successful businessman with interests in hotels and resorts, media, real estate and agriculture, Sukhbir Badal, who is known for his corporate style of functioning and decision-making, said: “Business is run by professionals. I am a full-time politician. In business, you are your own decision-maker. In government there is red-tapism which we are trying to cut down.”
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)