February 7, 2017 2:59:03 am
BURNT BY the experience of openly hobnobbing with Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh immediately after the 2012 Assembly election in anticipation that he was going to win, Punjab bureaucrats are treading a cautious path this time. Officials have adopted a wait-and-watch policy and are being careful not to be seen siding with any political party at the moment. With Punjab witnessing a fiercely fought triangular contest involving SAD-BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, and pundits divided over the outcome, bureaucrats are playing safe.
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Soon after the 2012 Assembly election, when Congress was believed to have an edge over the SAD-BJP alliance and predicted to form government, many administrative and police officers were seen at parties organised by the Congress leaders. Those officers paid heavily when SAD-BJP came to power instead of Congress. Many of them were sidelined by the SAD-BJP government.
“Nobody wants a repeat of that. Plus, we do not know which party is forming the government. Therefore, I am travelling and enjoying my paid holiday as there is no work to do. This kind of opportunity will not come for another five years,” said one
The work of government itself is at a standstill. No decisions are being taken and files are being narked with the advisory, “To be put up before the next government.”
One official said the offices at the Punjab Secretariat in Chandigarh had turned into “coffee houses” with no work to do and plenty of time for conversation with colleagues. Many have taken the opportunity to go on leave due to them.
Sources in the Congress said a few officials, already known to be close to Amarinder, have met him already. On the other hand, even if some bureaucrats believe that AAP may form government, there is no particular party leader in Punjab who they can call on. National convener of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, went back to Delhi on election day and state affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh left for the capital on Sunday. “While in Congress, there is a clear CM face, in AAP, we do not know who would be handed the reins of the state if the party forms the government. It is better to lie low,” said a police officer.
An AAP leader indicated that a handful of administrative and police officers secretly met Kejriwal in Delhi and Sanjay Singh in Chandigarh in the run-up to the polls. “They even helped us with some documents. They did not shy away from getting their pictures clicked either,”
Ahead of the elections, Kejriwal had released a document to the media purported to be the Zora Singh Mann Commission report on the Bargadi sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing. This was a secret document of the Punjab government. Some officials are calling their contacts in industry and even media to help them in case the party comes to power.
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