A standout feature of the accident-prone second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been its seeming inclination to act first and think later, be it the creation of Telangana, the tabling of the women’s bill, or the insertion of a caste column in the census.
A concomitant feature has been the constitution of an “Empowered Group of Ministers” (EGOM) at the drop of a hat, as a device to buy time, to rectify hastily taken decisions, and to build consensus in what is at the end of the day, a coalition government.
At one time, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, for instance, headed nearly 50 EGOMs.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express:
“The way in which the government uses the EGOM is unsettling…. The EGOM has become a peculiar institution. It is a backhanded acknowledgment of several things.
“First, that government gets into action only in a crisis which has in part been created by its own ministers. Second, the EGOMs signal a vacuum [on the part of the prme minister and the Cngress president] to fulfill one important function of government: to reconcile differences and be decisive.
“Third, the EGOMs may directly be contributing to skewed governmental priorities. Fourth, constantly referring to EGOMs is a signal that routine political coordination within the cabinet and party has broken down. An EGOM is more like a huddle in a crisis to broker deals than it is an instrument to promote public reason.”
Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express
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