After three weeks of heavy-duty agenda, Thursday’s meeting of the Union cabinet will see a lighter schedule with just three issues up for discussion. But one thing is likely to remain unchanged — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s aura of assertion, which has been evident ever since he started pushing long-pending reforms through.
Singh, once blamed by political rivals for the alleged policy paralysis, led the last cabinet meeting to take 18 decisions in just one-and-a-half hours. The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) approved five items in 30 minutes while the cabinet committee on infrastructure (CCI) decided three in 15. The cabinet, CCEA and CCI cleared 44 proposals after just three meetings.
The cabinet committee on political affairs took barely 20 minutes to decide on the sensitive issue of reducing LPG and diesel subsidy.
"He believes in building consensus. At times, he asks for the opinion of senior ministers. But realising the need for clearing proposals, he often intervenes to ensure that the debate doesn't consume too much time,” a senior cabinet minister said.
In a recent cabinet meeting, Singh reportedly cut short the speech of rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to allow finance minister P Chidambaram to speak on the issue. On another occasion, he reportedly overruled senior minister Vayalar Ravi and approved a proposal.
In the October 4 cabinet meeting, where 18 proposals were cleared, the PM ensured that discussions don't hold up other items listed for the day.
Insurance laws amendment was the 12th item on the list, while pension fund amendments, the company bill and forward contracts regulation bill were the 13th, 15th and 17th items respectively. “As a lot of ground work had already been done on these issues, the items were virtually cleared without major discussion,” a senior minister said.