Over the last 10 years of its two terms in power, the Shiromani Akali Dal has left its imprint on government machinery in a way that will last even after the model code of conduct set in. Not that the code could have stopped it, for colour apparently does not amount to a breach.
Blue, the SAD’s trademark, colours various government schemes, as do various shades of saffron and yellow, both associated with the SAD as well as the BJP.
The recently inaugurated government seva kendras are housed in buildings liberally coloured blue and yellow. The staff wear uniforms of the same colour. And the centres proudly display the Akali slogan: “Raj Nahi Seva”. Hop-on, hop-off government buses launched for tourists in Amritsar last month are also painted in the same colours, as are the mini buses for a newly launched service to rural areas.
“There are no instructions for colour. There should not be election symbols or slogans by any party,” said Tajinder Pal Singh Sandhu, additional deputy commissioner of Amritsar. Asked about Raj Nahi Seva written on Seva Kendra structures, the additional DC said, “Again it is not a party symbol. There shouldn’t be any specific message asking people to vote for a particular party.”
There are many more examples of the SAD signature. Government ration cards distributed to families below the poverty line are called “blue cards” and carry a picture of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Food Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon.
Designed like an ATM card, the health insurance scheme Sehat Bima Yojna card, too, is coloured blue and saffron with Raj Nahi Seva written over it.
Bicycles distributed to girls students in government schools are painted saffron and blue.
Inside every village is a board with detailed information on all the development work in the state. These boards too are blue and carry a picture of Badal and the same Akali slogan: Raj Nahi Sewa. The reverse osmosis systems installed in many villages of the Malwa for purification of ground water are also coloured blue, with the same slogan emblazoned on them. And cement benches distributed in localities are painted blue and yellow, or saffron. Even free sports kits distributed to village sports clubs are blue.
The BJP has not fallen behind. Minister Anil Joshi made full use of saffron during the renovation of Amritsar’s Company Bagh. The poles holding up the gazebos in the park are painted orange and green. The park also carries posters with Joshi’s picture and messages from him.