Day 27 – Q 1. What are the functions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in India? Has its role undergone a transformation in the recent years? Critically assess.
1. What are the functions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in India? Has its role undergone a transformation in the recent years? Critically assess.
भारत में प्रधान मंत्री कार्यालय (PMO) के कार्य क्या हैं? क्या हाल के वर्षों में इसकी भूमिका परिवर्तन से गुजरी है? समालोचनात्मक आकलन करें।
- The PMO is a staff agency meant for providing secretarial assistance and crucial advice to the Prime Minister.
- The PMO enjoys the status of a department of the Government of India under the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961. It has no attached and subordinate office under it.
- Acting as the ‘think-tank’ of the Prime Minister.
- Faster decision making: It helps in faster decision making as it involves experienced and powerful decision makers. Assisting the Prime Minister in respect of his overall responsibilities as head of the government like Maintaining liaison with central ministries/departments and the state governments.
- It acts as the residual legatee of the Central Government, that is, it deals with all such subjects which are not allotted to any ministry/department. Certain functions like RAW, CBI, ISRO etc. report directly to them and they need to be kept out of politics of the day.
- It is not concerned with the responsibilities of Prime Minister as the chairman of the Union Cabinet.
- Specialists: Certain function needs specialists and also needs to be done away from public eyes for greater good. Ex: Pokhran-II, External intelligence etc.
Transformation or Evolution of PMO
The PMO came into existence in 1947 by replacing the Secretary to the Governor-General (Personal). Till June 1977, it was called as the Prime Minister’s Secretariat (PMS). The evolution of PMO has a distinct stamp of incumbent prime ministers:
- During Nehru’s period, secretariat was a low key affair manned by officer of the rank of joint secretary. Cabinet secretariat was the apex body in that era.
- Lal Bahadur shastri enlarged the role. And first time the body become to be known as prime ministers secretariat, manned by senior IAS officer of country. Still, the decision making power was comparatively lesser than cabinet secretariat
- The post of Principal Secretary to Prime Minister was created during the tenure of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister.
- In 1977 Prime Minister Morarji Desai renamed the Prime Minister’s Secretariat as the Prime Minister’s Office. He also circumscribed its roles and functions significantly.
- In Rajiv Gandhi era it expanded qualitatively and quantitatively. It took keen interest in technology and in the field of science.
- Subsequently during the tenure of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao between 1991 and 1996, the Prime Minister’s Office played a crucial role in reshaping economic policies in response to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
- During the period of Vajpayee It was by any reckoning an active PMO in the triple area of economy, foreign policy and security framework.
- After a subdued tenure under last PM Manmohan Singh, it has again gained its vigor under the incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi.
Now PMO has become a necessity in last two decades due to:-
- Governance has increased in its complexity and scope.
- The international situation is more complicated.
PMO is the nerve centre of power. This office is the mirror to the incumbent’s character, personality and style of functioning. Like in current government, PMO is more powerful due to influence of PM over political party internally, full majority in the lower house and dominating personality characteristics.
Since, Independence, there has been tussle between PMO and Cabinet secretariat for being the apex bureaucratic organization of country. Some critics call PMO as supra cabinet, micro cabinet, government of government etc.
A centralizing and powerful PMO is a hindrance to collective responsibility, against parliamentary ethos and democratic set-up of executive but a weak PMO might lead to anarchy, policy paralysis and inefficiency.