Following several instances of differences between alliance partners Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over cabinet decisions, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has tweaked the procedure for decision-making at state cabinet meetings.
The CM has now asked ministers to circulate their cabinet proposals in advance, so that the entire cabinet can study them before the weekly meeting.
The two parties have been in an uneasy alliance since 1999.
Chavan initiated the new method this week, when Congressman and health minister Suresh Shetty circulated his proposal to give public health care a Rs1,988 crore makeover. Since this is a massive project, the CM was keen on keeping his cabinet colleagues well informed about the issue before it comes up for discussion next week. Other ministers are expected to follow suit when they place important proposals before the cabinet.
Currently, ministers receive the official agenda a day before the weekly cabinet meeting. Many ministers depend on their personal staff for inputs because they don’t get time to study the proposals. Sometimes, the respective parties hold pre-cabinet meetings to decide a line of action. This usually does not help because the meeting usually degenerates into a free-for-all due to lack of thorough preparation.
“Circulating the proposals in advance is a good practice because many ministers argue over a subject without studying it in detail, only for political reasons. When any of the alliance partners finds the proposal that has been passed inconvenient for political or other reasons, their respective party organisations try to pressurise the cabinet to roll it back,” said a senior minister who did not wish to be named.
There have been many instances of the Congress and NCP fighting over a proposal that their own ministers had cleared. A discussion and presentation on the escalated cost of the irrigation project had to be postponed several times in the past month because the Congress ministers questioned the claims of NCP’s water resources minister Sunil Tatkare without knowing what his department’s presentation contained.
Recently, the Congress got a freeship proposal stalled, while both parties opposed a move to give mayors financial powers. The two parties had also locked horns over a value added tax on cooking gas and water allocation for industries and farmers.