President Pranab Mukherjee took a dig at BJP led NDA and asked the government to assure minimum government with maximum governance. However, question is that can he deliver with handful of ministers? During his election campaign Narendra Modi has often put force or exaggerated on these words. After being elected, he formed his ministry restricting number of ministers to 45 only against 70 plus ministry of UPA-II. Due to the demise of Union Minister for Rural development and Panchayati Raj, late Gopinath Munde, the number of Modi ministers has now reduced to 44. Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has been given charge of Munde’s ministries.
Many see it as Modi’s promise as minimum government and maximum governance. Is reduction in the number of ministers called as minimum government? If yes, how maximum governance can be delivered? Aren’t the ministers overburdened with too much departments? Whatever may be the capability of one minister, isn’t it beyond one individual’s capacity to handle multiple and entirely different ministries? For example let’s consider Arun Jaitely’s portfolios of Finance and Defence. Both are entirely different, huge in nature and frankly speaking both the departments are in complete mess from last some years.
Similarly Ravi Shankar Prasad’s portfolios like Law & Justice and Telecom, both are entirely different from each other. General V.K. Singh is MoS with independent charge of North-East as well as MoS of external affairs. If one scrutinizes all the ministries, one would definitely find that ministers have been over loaded and bound to lose focus on one or more departments! As an efficient and proven administrator doesn’t Modi know about it? Or has he any different ideas? Before going to that question let’s understand what government and governance means!
For a radical change the government has to look into joined up government whereby various ministries and departments will be integrated. The focus of this integration has to be the citizen and not the administrative setup. Like take an example of a farmer. A farmer in India interacts with over eight government departments, three levels of government, multiple government agencies and over forty interactions during a crop lifecycle? In order to establish a mid level industry an industrialist interacts with over twenty departments while for a large business the interactions may go to over fifty government departments.
Apart from a few politicians, bureaucrats or journalists an average citizen is not really concerned whether the national security is managed by Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence, National Security Advisor or the Prime Minister’s Office. A citizen is essentially concerned with the services and targets. When we see mergers and de-mergers of large commercial organizations why can’t we imagine merger of multiple government of India departments to offer better services to citizens? Each government of India department in essence formulates and implements its own policies, with little reference to the others. Even if there are collaborative efforts the agenda of participating department is the key.
And when dividing the responsibilities between multiple departments there will be blind holes. Take the case of e-governance, Department of Electronics & Information Technology will promote it with a technology focus whereas the Department of Administrative Reforms will promote it as reforms agenda. It has to be cabinet secretariat which may possibly have to intervene to bring the agenda of joined up government via e-governance.
Let’s forget the number of Narendra Modi’s ministers now. What he did for maximum governance till now? He empowered bureaucrats along with accountability and set deadlines for them. Most importantly he abolished GOM and EGOMs. These terms are production of coalition era, which ordinarily either delayed the decisions or never took any decision. One would be surprised that GOM for river linking never had a single meeting since its creation!
Thus my conclusion is not to read Modi’s small size of council of ministers as minimum government. In fact number of ministers doesn’t matter rather simplifying the mechanism towards delivering governance is the minimum government! Thus folks, I bet Modi’s council of ministers too would be touching 60-70 in less than six months!