Has PMO under Narendra Modi become the epicenter of Governance?
Yes the Prime Minister Office (PMO) under Narendra Modi has become the epicenter of governance.
Yes the Prime Minister Office (PMO) under Narendra Modi has become the epicenter of governance. In fact the trend seems to be towards centralized governance more akin to quasi-presidential form of governance within parliamentary form of government will be the norm.
Let’s consider the steps taken and announcement made by him since he took oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014.
- On the very first day in office, Narendra Modi made it crystal clear that the Prime Minister's Office will call the shots on policy issues when he explicitly stated that the PM is in charge of "all important policy issues" and "all other portfolios not allocated to any minister."
- For instance, his decision to disband four cabinet standing committees including one on UIDAI, and only keep five cabinet standing committees that also most of them, importantly Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), will be headed by him is an indication in that direction.
- Besides, his tweaking of TRAI Act, 1997 to enable Nripendra Misra to become Principal Secretary to PMO also means that he will prefer PMO to steer the government on all policy issues.
- Also with the appointment of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Modi laid the foundation for a new-look, all-important, power wielding Prime Minister's Office that won't brook individual ministers undermining the government, something that afflicted the UPA regime.
- Further, laying down that approval is required for ministers to go on foreign trips; to appoint Personal Secretary (example : Rajnath Singh PS appointment on hold by PMO); reporting time of 9 am for the ministers; and 100 days agenda to be submitted to PMO, clearly indicates that PMO has become the epicenter of government.
PMO emerging as an epicenter of Governance under Narendra Modi means that Cabinet Ministers will not have a free run in the new government and as a result policy paralysis arising from ministries working at cross-purposes will be checked.
PMO as an epicenter of governance has varied with the change in the leader and the civil servants manning the PMO. For instance, PMO as a mechanism to assist PM on broad policy issues was devised during the Lal Bahadur Shastri regime but it attained muscles during Indira Gandhi regime.
However, it had become less influential during former PM Manmohan Singh led government as he preferred Empowered Group of Ministers to decide on major policy issues so as to decentalise decision-making.
To conclude, if the PMO and the Cabinet Secretary decide on top bureaucrats' appointments instead of the ministers in charge of those departments, half of the problem will be solved and governance will get a major boost.
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