India has finally got a government that it long deserved. It is time to move from mere action to defining accomplishments and from an era of outlays to firm outcomes.
The slogan of minimum government maximum governance that brought Narendra Modi to the doorstep of 7 RCR has to translate into reality without any delay.
Modi has to deliver on his promise to prune government of its excess baggage ushering in an era of talent over mediocrity and integrity over quota politics.
The talk of downsizing the government is not new to BJP. In its last outing at the centre in 1998 and 1999 it flirted with the idea of an optimum size of the cabinet. But the strains of coalition politics rarely allowed it to exercise the option.
The mandate this time has been bold and categorical leaving little space for allies to exercise any undue pressure on the Prime Minister. This does not mean there would be not any pressure at all. The RSS, which publicly played a proactive role in getting Modi the dream numbers, would indeed want its pound of flesh, especially in choice of ministries and ministers. For the record though it claims to stay away from any interference in Cabinet formation. But it is easier said than done.
Modi has sought 60 months as against 60 years of Congress rule to make a difference. His first definite test before the eyes of 125 crore Indians would be his ability to field an Indian XI that boasts of the best in business. Talent here would mean a perfect blend of impeccable personal and professional integrity made rich by a killer skill set must for delivering India of tomorrow.
This means looking beyond the comfort zone of politicians only in cabinet and roping in therefore talent with proven track record from diverse fields to help realize the billion plus dreams. Politicians or technocrats each member of cabinet as also elected member needs to work towards meeting clearly identified Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs).
First and foremost is the task of structuring the government and cutting out completely the flab. History might not offer yet another such excellent opportunity to come clean of the past to help re-script the India development story. This means taking some tough decisions and merging various ministries for efficiency and desired outcomes. First and foremost is the key decision to move away from the politically convenient but anti-governance paradigm of decision making through empowered group of ministers and group of ministers.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) gained notoriety for procrastination in decision making installing 68 Group of Ministers (GoM) and 14 Empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) in its second term. As of April 3, 2014, 20 GoMs and nine eGoMs were yet functional. Among the key functional eGoMs include issues relating to development of North East, drought and building mass rapid transport system in the country, setting up of ultra mega power projects in India, price band development for sales of shares in public sector enterprises and eGoM on gas pricing and commercial utilization of gas.
The argument is not against consensus building in government decision making but for speedy and efficient outcomes. The Cabinet itself is mandated to take decisions and excessive focus on committee approach for good governance has not shown positive results.
Time the Modi government carefully evaluated the scope of having so many GoMs and eGoMs and restored the sanctity of Cabinet as one single instrument of decision making and accountability. The buck must stop with the Prime Minister and passing on the buck to select ministers in the cabinet has to end immediately. Modi has a historic opportunity to quickly show to the world he can well administer India as an effective CEO.
Second, there has been loud talk of restructuring the government. There is body of work available in this regard. An expert committee comprising people with proven experience can quickly recommend a gamut of changes in a one month framework to overhaul ministries and departments as per requirements of governing the new age India. Until then the Modi government can erect a bare minimum Cabinet to man critical ministries that clearly do not fall under any restructuring ambit.
The writer is Editor-Zee Research Group