By: Ashok Singhal
The Government of Assam led by Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma has completed two years. The story of the last two years has been one of development and prosperity, peace, and tranquillity, feel good and optimism. Having been part of the journey in the process, as a legislator, and as a fortunate Cabinet colleague of a very dynamic and workaholic and to put in today’s parlance, a 24X7 Chief Minister, I am a privileged person today.
I have also been lucky to have worked in close coordination with the Chief Minister. It is not that I am the only fortunate one; many of my colleagues across party lines (since this is a coalition Government) feel the same that being part of the Cabinet has been a fulfilling exercise. Forget the power equation which comes up when one is a Minister in the Cabinet, but when you work alongside a person of Dr. Sarma’s like, you elevate yourself to a new notion of public service and propriety for doing public good.
There have been instances in the past after I became a Minister in his Cabinet when my body said no to me, but then the reflection of the Chief Minister, who likely would be working when I wanted to give up, would spur me with fresh energy. This has kept me galvanized all through during the last two years of service to the people of the State.
Just prior to the 2021 Assembly election which propelled the BJP-led coalition to power, Dr. Sarma had boldly declared the party line that micro finance loan worth Rs 12,000-crore which was outstanding against more than 30 lakh women in the State would be waived off by the new Government. He also promised that the new Government will create 1 lakh Government jobs in the State. As an individual and politician with some understanding of economics and commerce, I was one of the skeptics deep down. How can a Government with limited resources and an economy still recovering from the headwinds of the Covid-19 pandemic manage it? Today, as I look back, I am thunderstruck by the vision and the willpower of the leader that the Chief Minister is. He is not merely an astute politician, but to me he is a stateman, who can envision things as they will be in the months and years to come.
As you read this, the Government has declared that over 45,000 appointment letters to successful candidates shall be handed out on May 27 and their employment in Government shall be secured. This has come over and above the 41,920 Government post filled up in the last two years. This clean and transparent mechanism, unthinkable anywhere in the country, has one architect in the form of Dr. Sarma. He has from Day One of assuming the Chief Minister chair has seen to it that Government departments which have been hamstrung in their efficiency because of shortage of manpower get the required strength to perform for the people of the State. His grasp of the ground reality cutting across departments has resulted in a very successful recruitment and appointment process.
The weekly Cabinet meetings are not mere formalities. He conducts them with solidity, homework, and purpose. He knows exactly what he wants and is very decisive when it comes to the target he has in mind from other departments.
I was fortunate to work on the micro finance loan waiver scheme, alongside him, and it was an experience of a different kind to have been guided by him. This loan waiver would not have been possible had it not been due to the rise in the revenue generated by the State, through various means. His policies have resulted in double digit growth for Assam despite the pandemic, and helped the State emerge as one of the success stories in the country. The kind of vision that he has shared in various Cabinet meetings, I am sure we will outpace many fancied States across India’s geography in the remaining three year term of this Government.
A cursory glance at the figures coming to us from the farms today state that paddy procurement in the State at MSP-plus price is going to meet the target figure of 10 lakh metric tonnes. This has spurred farmers back to their field with a renewed vision. At the same time, hundreds of crores have percolated in the rural economy thereby boosting the GSDP. This, in turn, will boost self-employment avenues for youths. All these have helped us to envision a target of generating two lakh self employed youths through various economic and social measures. This is how the Chief Minister seeks to achieve a Government that “reforms, performs, and transforms”.
He has not only been able to chart the economic progress of Assam, but his bold intervention in the social life of its people has resulted in smashing the drug cartel in Assam, reduction in crime, and no-reported child marriage in the last three months. Of course, numbers alone and will never tell you the real story. Yet, the quantity of drugs seized, the number of people arrested all attest to a very sensitive Chief Minister who is willing to sacrifice personal popularity for greater social benefit. As a Minister having accompanied him on many such visits across the nook and cranny of Assam, I can vouch that his popularity cutting across class, caste, gender, and any other divide is unmatched by any Chief Minister across the country.
Look at his patience and resoluteness in solving the boundary dispute with our neighbours. Bringing them on board to an understanding that it will be a win-win situation for all is something no Chief Minister anywhere in the country has managed. Not only that, but he has also managed to convince militant groups across the State to give up arms and believe singularly in the vision that he nurtures for his State.
Not only politicians of the ruling parties, but those even in the opposition acknowledge that he is the best leader the State needs today. My personal experience of receiving a call at 1 AM and then a follow call soon after on the progress made is not an exception, something to which my Cabinet colleagues testifies.
If the development of Assam is anything to go by, I can state this in no uncertain terms that he alone is capable of guiding not only Assam but the astha lakhsmi to its intended destiny, a vision which he so deeply shares.