Rationed Government

With politicians busy in mudslinging and personal attacks in the name of electioneering, the code of conduct that came into force a couple of months ago to prevent incumbent rulers from using government machinery and decisions to influence the outcome of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls has come as a godsend for the administration, giving it an opportunity for a well-deserved nap after strenuous exertions of over five years.

 Still laboring under what many call the Eid Syndrome – Eids and other festivals having long been the only occasions for the administration to show signs of life by sprucing up streets, taking stock of supplies and announcing market checking squads – Kashmir’s political masters can’t be blamed for fears of what is supposed to be everyday functioning being attributed to ulterior motives.

No one knows this better than a senior cabinet minister who has a record of sorts of getting elected from a particular constituency downtown and can safely be regarded as having had a pioneering role in certain aspects of governance through window-dressing.  The press should have known better than to take umbrage when this illustrious leader recently cited the election code of conduct to justify why the administration sat twiddling its thumbs as Kashmir witnessed a heavy March snowfall forecast well in advance.  Having rarely received the government’s loving ministrations without some minister or the other having an axe to grind, it was only the masses who truly understood the leader’s logic.

The administration, therefore, has no choice but to take its cue from the veteran, one with decades of experience in creating performance where none exists. But it also speaks volumes of the leadership’s unshakeable faith in the masses’ unfailing capacity to be led by the nose – direction being as immaterial as the shifting wind. So even as ration depots remain closed most of the time, supplies get sold off in the black-market, and a nexus of officials and depot-holders makes money hand-over-fist, the administration sits with hands tied behind its back, and a code-of-conduct placard pegged in front.

Governments being tightlipped by necessity on grave issues of statecraft like giving city pavements a new coat of paint, it would be risky to speculate on how the administration plans to work its way around the Election Commission’s strictures when preparing Kashmir’s summer capital to welcome its elected royalty back from Jammu. But then, codes of conduct, moral or immoral, come into play only where common people are involved: the rule book goes out of the window in case of the uncommon breed.