UPA Mechanism to Kill Decision Making Dumped
By Santwana Bhattacharya | Published: 01st June 2014 07:22 AM |
NEW DELHI: One of the last few relics of coalition politics, GoMs and EGoMs, was done away with by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to ensure expeditious decision making and “greater accountability”.
The Group of Ministers and Empowered Group of Ministers, numbering 21 and nine respectively, were mini-Cabinets (not headed by the PM) ushered in during the Vajpayee era to thrash out differences among ministers and ministries on complex issues which needed tedious deliberations.
But in the Manmohan Singh government, the number of GoMs and EGoMs increased rapidly and at one point came to be seen to be as a tool to either delay or avoid immediate decision making at Cabinet meetings, where top ministers often vehemently disagreed with each other on contentious issues, hobbling the decision making process. From one such Cabinet meeting, Mamata Banerjee, then Railway Minister of UPA government, had famously stormed out refusing to concede ground on the draft bill on Land Acquisition, threatening to pull the plug on the government.
FDI-in-retail and the National Manufacturing Policy were similarly referred to GoMs and EGoMs respectively, where Cabinet ministers from coalition parties and the Congress fiercely fought with each other, making it impossible for the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister to take a final decision. It is this set-up or mechanism of Cabinet sub-committee that new Prime Minister Modi summarily dismantled, with an official release terming it a “major move to empower ministries and departments” and “expedite the process of decision making”.
The release also noted that “whenever the ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision making process”.
Pranab Mukherjee, before he shifted to Rashtrapati Bhavan, came to be known as proxy-PM for having chaired the maximum number of GoMs and EGoMs. The general perception among the other Cabinet ministers was that Manmohan Singh was transferring tough political decisions on to Mukherjee.
Later, Defence Minister A K Antony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram and NCP leader/Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar headed large numbers of GoMs and EGoMs, the number of which once touched 60.
The EGoMs were given the authority to take decisions and subsequent decisions, after which obtaining approval from any Cabinet committee, headed by the Prime Minister, was just a formality.