Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Synonyms to Sushasana
By: Arjun Ram Meghwal
The Good Governance or Sushashan is an imbibed inheritance of India’s ancient culture and ethos. The democratic values retrieved through the GanSangha of Buddhism, Anubhav Mantap system of 11th Century AD established by Lord Basveshwar, Chankya’sArthShastra, Civic Planning during the Indus Valley civilization, Legacy of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, among others, are inherited wisdom towards better Governance. On the occasion of Good Governance Day to mark the Birth Anniversary of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, It is imperative to throw light and contextualize his remarkable role in institutionalizing the excellent Governance measures in independent India.
After independence, Good Governance remained a focal point of the governance reforms, but in discourses only. In Constitution Assembly debates or institutions like Planning Commission, the duly crafted policy discussion remained on paper with poor implementation measures. With the visionary leadership&Statesmanship of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the nation witnessed historic good-governance efforts that brought fortunes to the lives of the masses.
A long stint as a parliamentarian having ten terms as a member of Loksabha, two terms as Rajya Sabha Member Atal Bihari Vajpayee, kept on throwing light on good Governance’s nuances. As an opposition member, his reasoned argument and constructive criticisms carried much gravity to aspire for a welfare-centric governance system. During his prime ministerial tenures, the people-centric initiatives emerged as milestones in India’s transformational journey. The improving farmers live by introducing Kisan Credit Cards, Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojna, Infrastructural boost by Golden Quadrilateral scheme, the conceptualization of River interlinking& National Rural Health program, Educational reforms through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Constituting a separate Tribal Affairs Ministry, among others, are a few measures that have touched every section of societies. The quasi-judicial Central ElectrictyReguralatory Commission was set up, and the age-old electricity act was amended in the Power sector to improve the regulatory framework.
In May 1998, conducting nuclear tests at Pokhran Rajasthan catapulated India’s Status to Nuclear wepon state as part of his national governance Agenda. The famous Vajpayee doctrine towards solving the complex Kashmir problem echoed the popular wisdom of ‘Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat&Kashmiriyat’ meant for humanity, peace, and sanctity of Kashmiri People. His foreign affairs-related insights that ‘You can change friends, not neighbors’ continuous source of engagement at all platforms. Atalji’s government had allowed bringing bodies of martyrs to their homes to enable the people to honor the soldiers who were given supreme sacrifices in the service of the nation. He was a man of consensus and pragmatism reflected from the fact that in 2000 three new states of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were formed by carving out from Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand & Bihar respectively in a very peaceful manner. It was a well-thought-out move towards establishing good-governance by bringing government closer to the people.
He was deeply influenced by the futuristic insights of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s thoughts and his role in nation-building. It was the insistence of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani Ji that VP Singh government, supported by BJP, honoredDr. Bhimrao Ambedkar with Bharat Ratna on March 31, 1990. AB Vajpayee’s will to develop the pious premises of 26 Alipore Road, Delhi where Maharaja of Sirohi, Rajasthan invited Dr. Ambedkar to stay after resigning from the Union Cabinet (1951), transpired to create it as a museum that would inspire the people for social equality. Dr. Ambedkar Breathed last at this place only. The Ministry of Urban Development signed the exchange deed of this private property on October 14, 2003, under Vajpayee’s supervision & development works were inaugurated in December 2003. Later during the UPA regime, this project was kept at bay. The Modi government developed it with the cost of INR 100 crores as Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial and dedicated it to the nation on April 13, 2018.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee walked the talk of Good Governances by undertaking several initiatives at the dawn of the 21st century. Now taking that baton forward, PM Narendra Modi has increased the speed & scale of these measures to realize his goals and make #NewIndia a 21st-century global leader. Technological interventions like DBT, JAM trinity, Faceless taxation, among other measures, led to minimizing the discretionary power, and it has strengthened the people’s confidence in institutions. The ambit of Kisan credit cards has been increased, and Agriculture allied activities have been incorporated. A big boost to the infrastructure sector is undertaken through the Bharatmala, Sagarmala, National Asset Monetisation Pipeline, Agriculture Infrastructure fund, an extension to PMGSY phase-III.
The repeal of article 370, i.e.,the special status of J&K, has added a new dimension to the effective & efficient services delivery mechanism for the J&K. Now, people from every section are brought into the mainstream development agenda.Atal Bhujal Yojana has for sustainable ground water management. Recently, on 8th Decmber Union Cabinet Approved the Ken-Betwa interlinking project, has become the first major center-driven project to carry water from areas with surpluses to drought-prone and water deficit areas to reliase the vision of Atalji.
The Mantra of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’ facilitating the ease of lives of citizens. Breaking governance silos through better coordination among various ministries & departments with initiatives like PM Gatishakti, PRAGATI, capacity building through Mission Karamyogi, focused emphasis on simplifying procedures and reducing the compliance burden on businesses, individuals, and other stakeholders are ensuring better service delivery. The implementation of GST, Labor codes, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, New Education Policy, Mudra, PM Awas Schemes, PM Kisan,and seamless faceless resolution of tax disputes are other several aspects, strengthening the transparency, responsiveness, and other dimensions of good Governance. It is testimony to such measures that India has improved on Ease of Doing Business ranking to 79 positions from 145 in 2015 to 63 in 2020. Similarly, the Global Innovation Index ranking increased from 81st (2015) to 46th rank (2021).
Societies co-evolve with scientific & technological developments, and so does parity required for the governance reforms to accommodate the emerging transformation for the betterment of all stakeholders. Modi Government measures implemented in a time-bound manner are genuinely remarkable, and many historic milestones have been achieved so far. As the saying goes, there is always room for improvement; many significant reforms are in pipelines. PM has raised the concern for holding simultaneous elections, Single Electoral roll, Judicial Reform in the form of All India Judicial Services on many platforms the for nation’s best interest. Appropriate consultations are being held at federal & political levels among relevant stakeholders to expedite the reform process.
Good Governance is a means to essentially serve the people, having its end towards fulfilling their aspirations through the well-established constitutional framework. Atalji’s vision, leadership, guidance, and invaluable insights will always remain an inspiration for present and future generations. As the nation witnessing the Good Governance Day during the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, lets us introspect and pledge to act in the spirit of ‘SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, SabkaPrayas’ for Building a New India.
The writer is Union Minister of State for Culture & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India, representing Bikaner constituency in Loksabha.