Apparently, no one has formulated an SOP for how to swear in a new government during the peak of a pandemic. Time we had one as five state governments are to be sworn in during the coming week.
While the swearing-in may at best be a constitutional and bureaucratic exercise, what has piqued the curiosity of observers is how a new government that takes charge after a regime change would handle the pandemic. Will there be chop and change of the bureaucracy that accompanies when an opposition party takes over or will there be continuity in the administration till the pandemic subsides a bit?
At least Tamil Nadu may have to grapple with both the entry of a “politically” new government and handling the pandemic since exit polls have unanimously projected a regime change with the DMK expected to form the new government. The DMK, out of power for a decade, had been hoping to usher in its new government under a new leader --- M.K. Stalin --- with a grand swearing-in ceremony at the Centenary Hall of the Madras University. Now it may be compelled to tone it down to a small but sensible swearing-in event at the Raj Bhavan with only the essential VVIPs in attendance.
Stalin has already urged his party cadres not to resort to any celebratory show of strength and adhere to Covid protocols. In spite of his appeal supporters of new ministers are expected to stream into Chennai from their respective districts unless strict travel restrictions are imposed. “Even during normal times the sudden influx of thousands of supporters disrupts traffic but this time there is the additional threat of these cadres becoming superspreaders as they will most likely take back the virus to their homes,” shuddered a senior police officer.
The next challenge would be in running the government. Given the animosity between the DMK and the AIADMK, especially since grave charges of corruption and maladministration flung at the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government, a DMK government would be tempted to resort to its old formula of complete makeover of the IAS and IPS postings. Can the new regime afford a new set of hands especially in the areas of health, revenue, disaster management and law and order considering these departments had played a crucial role in controlling the first wave of corona in 2020?
“Ideally Stalin, if he becomes chief minister, should not disturb the present set of officers and instead must use their experience to combat the present spurt in Covid cases. He can have retired IAS officers, who had worked with him in the past, in an advisory capacity since they could bring a fresh perspective,” said a retired IAS officer. Since fighting the pandemic takes precedence, implementing poll promises can also take a back seat and people will be in no mood to complain at the delay he suggested.
While Jayalalithaa, on returning to power, used to be in a hurry to derail any project initiated by Karunanidhi, the same cannot be said of Karunanidhi. He had always looked for continuity in projects and pushed them towards completion. Stalin too is expected to exhibit a similar maturity while dealing with the present health crisis. Asked how a DMK government would handle the pandemic compared to the present government, FISHERIES MINISTER D. Jayakumar shot back, “The question arises only if they come back to power. We will be around to tackle this second wave as well.”