Weight-averse Modi disbands four cabinet panels

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Prime minister Narendra Modi has disbanded four major cabinet standing committees, including the one on the unique identification authority (UID­AI), to trim down and speed up the decision-making mechanism.

Modi will run the government with only five cabinet committees, including the one on security, which will be reconstituted shortly. He will head all of them.

The other three cabinet panels that faced the axe included those on pri­c­e­s, ma­nagement of natural cal­amities and on World Trade Organisation matters.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), which Modi heads, will now become the all-powerful panel taking calls on all key policy issues. Ministers with independent charge of major economic portfolios will be called in when decisions related to their ministries are taken.

As reported in Financial Chronicle earlier, the cabinet committee on investment (CCI) may also be disbanded along with various economic advisory councils and bodies attached to the PM.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh used to head the cabinet panel on the management of natural calamities. Modi has instead got a panel of secretaries headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth to take all decisions in case natural calamities such as floods, drought or a tsunami in any part of the country.

Singh had formed the committee on prices for constant monitoring of inflation, which hovered in double digits for a long time. Now the same task has been entrusted to the CCEA. If required, the full cabinet will handle major price-related issues. Food inflation is projected to remain at elevated levels in view of the deficient rain forecast due to an El Nino event.

The task of the committee on the WTO-related issues has been delegated to the CCEA, which will also handle all multi-lateral trade issues. Crucial issues will go directly to the cabinet.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government had formed the cabinet panel on WTO affairs ahead of the Doha summit in 2001, and it was retained and expanded by the UPA government.

The cabinet panel on UIDAI was an UPA relic and its disbanding is seen as an attempt to end the UPA government’s legacy. The pet project of the Manmohan Singh government has been under a cloud ever since the regime change, though the Modi government has not clarified its stand on it.

The remaining five cabinet standing committees will be revamped in due course. Modi will chair the all-powerful cabinet committee on security (CCS), which will comprise home minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance and defence minister Arun Jaitley as members. As and when a full-time defence minister is appointed, he or she will join the panel.

Ajit Doval, who was recently appointed national security adviser to the PM, will be a permanent invitee to the CCS, as will be the foreign affairs adviser, if and when the PM appoints one.

Cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth and principal secretary to PM, Nripendra Misra, will also take part in all CCS deliberations.

Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu will be an addition to the two cabinet committees on parliamentary affairs and political affairs. Modi can nominate two or more members to these panels to ensure smooth conduct of business in Parliament and take call on political issues.

In keeping with his motto of ‘minimum government and maximum governance,’ Modi has already disbanded about a hundred ministerial groups and all empowered groups of ministers. He has also limited his council of ministers to 45 with just 24 cabinet ministers..

Officials privy to PM’s style of working said though the PMO would emerge as the epicenter of governance, it would have fewer officials. Modi may go for a panel of various sectoral experts to advise him.


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