Catalysts of Change
It was a powerful mix of debate and camaraderie at the INDIA TODAY conclave as chief ministers and Union ministers discussed corruption, governance and state funding
It was a powerful mix of debate and camaraderie at the INDIA TODAY conclave as chief ministers and Union ministers discussed corruption, governance and state funding.
SJaipal Reddy’s first stopover after the Government announced a petrol price hike was the INDIA TODAY State of the States Conclave in Delhi on November 4. The minister for petroleum and natural gas was part of a panel discussion debating ‘Can Corruption Be Cured?’ When asked whether he would also like to speak on Telangana, Reddy dodged it with a laugh, “I think I will stick to the frying pan.” The mood of the nation was reflected at the conclave as chief ministers discussed a range of issues such as corruption, Centre-state funding, public-private partnership, and even Telangana. Among the six chief ministers present was Arunachal Chief Minister Nabam Tuki who had taken oath just three days earlier. “I worked for three days and won three awards. That’s a good beginning,” said a beaming Tuki. His colleague from Manipur was not so lucky. Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh had to cancel his trip to Delhi 15 minutes before his flight was to take off due to disturbances on National Highway 53. The Chief Minister asked state minister Mohammad Alauddin Khan to attend the function. Khan, who was undergoing treatment for throat cancer in Delhi, rushed to the venue, wearing a mask. He received the award with his lips sutured and hands bandaged. The spirit of Manipur was on display that November evening.
During his welcome address, India Today Group
Chairman and Editor-in-chief Aroon Purie traced the rising importance of regional parties—and hence chief ministers—in Central politics. He pointed out that “the nature of the Centre has also changed with the rise of coalition politics and regional parties... It has weakened and at least some power has dispersed to state capitals. The future of this country, particularly in terms of the welfare and well-being of its citizens, therefore, depends on what happens in the capitals of our 30 states”. In essence, he underlined the dominant principle behind the conclave—to provide chief ministers a platform to debate the issues of the day. It was in recognition of their increasing importance as stakeholders at the Centre that INDIA
TODAY first constituted the State of the State awards in 2003.
Delivering the keynote address, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said these awards have “contributed to a growing awareness of the importance of pursuing performance and results in the area of governance”. On the challenges facing our economy, he observed, “In a globalised world, every situation that confronts us is more complex than the preceding one, be it inflation, or depressed investment sentiments in the economy or even the uncertainties of global developments. And this is where the policy challenges lie.”
INDIA TODAY Editorial Director M.J. Akbar was quick to ignite debate on the dais by commenting that “corruption is emerging as the biggest challenge to good governance”. Reddy, who loves a good debate even when he is on the losing side, then reeled off a list of anti-corruption legislation on the anvil. “Our Government has adopted a five-pronged institutional strategy to combat corruption. One, of course, is the creation of a powerful Lokpal,” he said. But the Government’s good intentions seemed to fall short of Uttarakhand’s track record. Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri passed Anna Hazare’s version of the Jan Lokpal Bill on November 1.
Dressed in a spotless white kurta, Haryana minister Randeep Singh Surjewala was the earnest and young quotient in the panel. “As a decision maker I am entitled to be wrong. If I have to be right, you have to give me the leverage to be wrong without necessarily being dishonest,” he said. The audience asked a question on whether paralysis had crept into governance. Reddy, as the de facto spokesperson for the Government, denied it but Khanduri said, “Our system is diseased. There is analysis leading to paralysis.”
The next discussion had Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his Assam counterpart Tarun Gogoi debating whether states get their financial due from the
Centre. Representing the Centre was C.P. Joshi, minister for road transport and highways. Chavan said the Planning Commission should re-examine its programmes for states because “one-size-fits-all schemes do not work well even within states”. Soliciting funds for his state, he cited five examples of large infrastructure projects, such as the Navi Mumbai airport, which would require over Rs 50,000 crore each. “These are national projects and not Mumbai’s alone,” said Chavan with his boyish smile. The equally dapper Gogoi, dressed in a beige bandhgalla, too made a pitch for his state claiming the North-east could not be measured by the same yardstick as the rest of India. He listed problems of terrain, insurgency and a short working season (only six months due to an extended monsoon) unique to the region.
Joshi played devil’s advocate. He pointed out that the Centre was already giving the North-east funds on a 90:10 formula. Gogoi rebutted saying the Government still did not factor in local problems. Funds for calamity relief did not address the issue of soil erosion rampant in Assam, he said. When quizzed about losing the Nano project to Gujarat, Chavan said Gujarat had offered a 300 per cent interest-free loan to the project, something other states could not afford. “I don’t want to woo big industrialists with interest-free loans. My farmers deserve interest-free loans more,” said Gogoi.
It was Congress versus BJP and state versus Centre, both on and off the dais. Khanduri rushed from the conclave to meet Hazare while Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, Madhu Goud Yaskhi, buttonholed Reddy at the venue. No awards for guessing what they talked about. Chavan and Gogoi recalled their days as Union ministers and reminisced about Pranabda who had left to catch a flight to Kolkata where Mamata Banerjee had thrown her latest tantrum. The state of the nation beckoned.
FROM LEFT: GOASECRETARY(IT) RAJIVVERMA, MOHAMMAD ALAUDDIN KHAN, TARUN GOGOI, NABAM TUKI, NAGALAND CHIEF MINISTER NEIPHIU RIO,
GUJARAT RESIDENT COMMISSIONER BHARAT LAL, PRITHVIRAJ CHAVAN, AROON PURIE, PRANAB MUKHERJEE, M.J. AKBAR, CHAIRMAN AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OFSREI INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE LTD HEMANTKANORIA,
B.C. KHANDURI, HIMACHALPRADESH CHIEF MINISTER P.K. DHUMAL, PUDUCHERRYJOINT RESIDENT COMMISSIONER JAYANT RAY, RANDEEP SINGH
SURJEWALAAND MIZORAM MINISTER LALRINLIANA SAILO
I hope that these rankings promote healthy competition among states, the kind where each state adopts the best practices of others .”
S. Jaipal Reddy
Our Government has adopted a five-pronged institutional strategy to combat corruption. One, of course, is the creation of a powerful Lokpal.”
We all need our heroes and role models for retaining our motivation in public life. I welcome these awards.”
B.C. Khanduri Randeep Singh SurjewalaVIKRAM Sharma/www.indiatodayimages.com
Governments must wake up. Their working must change. Politicians must become statesmen or leave politics.”
As a decision maker I am entitled to be wrong. If I have to be right, you have to give me the leverage to be wrong without necessarily being dishonest.”
Tarun Gogoi Prithviraj ChavanVIKRAM Sharma/www.indiatodayimages.com
Regional disparities have widened post-liberalisation and the sense of deprivation has increased. The Centre needs to work with us.”
One size fits all schemes do not work well even within states. Seventy-five per cent of Maharashtra’s GDP is generated by just four of its 35 districts. ”
C. P. JoshiRAMESH SHARMA/MAIL TODAY
States must address local inequities as funds available with the Centre are not unlimited.”