Friday, June 10, 2011

A New Beginning Amidst Old Problems

So, the initial euphoria is over and Its time to get back to work again for our representatives. An inexplicable sense of optimism today pervades every nook and corner of Barak Valley. You walk down the streets and only end up getting a feeling that the people are ready to forgive and forget the endless years of non-governance, corruption and backwardness and are willing to chart a new path with the new representatives.

Indeed, it is almost impossible to gauge the mind of the voter in our valley. Only six months ago, slogans were shouted against the MPs and MLAs of the region during innumerable agitations demanding better roads, better electricity, medical facilities and so on. Choicest of slangs, not even civil enough to be printed here, were hurled at them. In six months time, the same villains were voted to power again, this time, with greater margins.

If at all any one got punished for poor performance, it was Dinesh Prasad Goala, the erstwhile Urban Development Minister. Even though the people of Lakhipur voted him to the assembly again, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi rightly decided to clip his wings and strip him of his ministerial status. Goala’s abject callousness in dealing with the urban challenges of Silchar town despite being the urban development minister and his below the table politicking in the Silchar Municipal Board controversy cost him really hard.

Ajit Singh
Ajit Singh, the present representative of the tea garden workers and the Hindi speaking section of the valley has now taken Goala’s chair. Though his credentials as a minister are not yet tested, as an MLA he seemed more enterprising than his senior colleague from Lakhipur. However, Singh, also does not have much to show in terms of development in his constituency of Udharbond. But his soft spoken demeanor and brilliant interpersonal communication skills work to his advantage.

Gautam Roy
There was apprehension this time that Barak Valley’s heavyweight Gautam Roy will also miss the ministerial bus with Goala. However, Gogoi would have landed in controversy had he not included a Bengali Hindu representative in his cabinet from Barak Valley.  Probably this worked in favour of Roy. He is known to make tall promises and has performed marginally better than most other public representatives in the valley. But given his track record in his previous stints as minister, his inclusion does not really guarantee any major change either.  

Siddique Ahmed
After quite a while, the Karimganj district is going to have a minister of its own. Siddique Ahmed is a battle hardened politician and has the support of the minorities in the district. However, his constant run ins with Gautam Roy during the pervious government’s tenure does raise doubts about the two ministers working in unison for the development of the region.

The people of Silchar also seem very optimistic about their new MLA. Sushmita Dev, a practicing lawyer and daughter of former union cabinet minister Santosh Mohan Dev, indeed shows the right signs. She is educated, articulate and at least externally looks excited about working for her constituency. Given the abject absence of work culture in the state government and the rampant corruption across the valley, it will be interesting to see how the young Dev manages to tread a new path.

Sushmita’s mother and her predecessor to the assembly from Silchar,  Bithika Dev has been let of by the people of the town twice. First she messed up as the chairperson of the Municipal Board and then created a record of sorts by keeping completely mum in the assembly about the plethora of problems faced by her constituency. On both the occasions, her daughter came to her rescue. But if Sushmita goofs this time, she might not get another chance.

Hopefully, we will be back on this platform debating about their performance in five years time again. Whether the Mahasadak and the broad gauge will be realities by then, we do not really know. Till then, we can only wish our leaders well and hope that they will not let us down again. 

Assembly Constituency
Gautam Roy
Katlichera (Hailakandi)
Public Health Engineering (PHE) – Cabinet Rank
Ajit Singh
Udharbond (Cachar)
Excise, Sports and Youth Welfare – Independent Charge
Siddique Ahmed
Karimganj South (Karimganj)
Cooperation and Border Areas Development – Independent Charge

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Silchar through the Lense