Why PM Modi doesn’t need ministerial groups

  • Arnab Mitra, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2014 13:09 IST
Prime-Minister-Narendra-Modi-gestures-during-his-arrival-at-the-Prime-Minister-s-Office-at-South-Block-in-New-Delhi-AFP-Photo

The decision of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to abolish the practice of setting up groups of ministers (GoMs) and empowered groups of ministers (EGoMs) is expected to hasten the pace of decision-making in the government and bring to an end the policy and administrative paralysis that had hobbled the government under UPA 2.

GoMs, as the name suggests, are small groups of ministers that meet to resolve conflicting views within the council of ministers. Decisions taken by the GoMs had to be approved by the cabinet. This tradition was started by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government.

The UPA government took this practice a step further by setting up EGoMs, which took decisions on behalf of the council of ministers. UPA 1 set up about 80 GoMs and EGoMs, and UPA 2 took this figure to about 120.

“Setting up so many GoMs and EGoMs was a contributory factor in slowing down the decision-making process in the government,” said NK Singh, a BJP member and former IAS officer who served as principal secretary to Vajpayee.

To be fair, in the coalition era, GoMs and EGoMs did serve the purpose for which they were set up. They decided several contentious issues, including the plan for restructuring Air India, the amendments to strengthen India’s anti-rape laws following the Delhi gang rape, the allocation of natural gas to different industries and 2G spectrum pricing in the aftermath of the 2G scam, among several other decisions.

Read: Modi axes all GoMs, eGoMs for fast decisions

Vajpayee’s NDA and the two UPA governments were coalitions where alliance partners often had strong views on various subjects. So, GoMs offered a platform for evolving a consensus among ministers with different priorities and agendas.

Empowering EGoMs and, in effect, senior ministers, to take decisions on behalf of the cabinet, however, eroded the authority of the Prime Minister, which, in turn, also contributed to the drift in governance, Singh added.

Of the 27 EGoMs set up by UPA 2, Pranab Mukherjee headed the largest number (13), followed by P Chidambaram (10).

But the BJP has an absolute majority in the current NDA government.

Thus, Prime Minister Modi, who is known to be very decisive, and the cabinet secretariat are in a much stronger position to resolve differences among ministers and stamp their authority over decisions.

So, this is likely to work better for the current government.

“GoMs and EGoMs bring a multi-disciplinary approach and a single-window clearance system to governance,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said in a surprisingly muted reaction.

Industry experts also said the abolition of GoMs and EGoMs will almost certainly hasten the pace of decision-making and lead to a decisive departure from the administrative paralysis of the last few years.

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