With 76 ministers, is Modi's council still “minimum government, maximum governance”?
In 2014 when Narendra Modi led BJP came to power in India, "minimum government, maximum governance" was the slogan given to the people of the country. Three years later, Narendra Modi's council of ministers has 76 members, five more than what the UPA II had.
Only 46 ministers took oath and became part of the council, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 after the BJP swept the general elections. "I believe the government has no business to do business. The focus should be on Minimum Government but Maximum Governance," Narendra Modi had famously said after taking charge as the Prime Minister. Three years into the government a lot has changed, and the council of ministers has been expanded gradually.
The BJP had mocked the Congress for its umpteen number of ministers. The UPA had 68 GoMs and 14 EGoMs. The BJP-led NDA government abolished the 'Group of Ministers' (GoMs) and 'Empowered Group of Ministers' (EGoMs) that was prevalent during the UPA regime. "This would expedite the process of decision making and usher in greater accountability in the system. The Ministries and Departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at the level of Ministries and Departments itself" a statement from the Prime Minister's office explained.
There is neither a government nor governance: Congress
Today, the Congress is in a position to mock the BJP over the number of ministers in the council. After all, the Congress-led UPA had only 71 in comparison to current NDA Council of 76 ministers.
"Narendra Modi government has gone back on every single promise made to the country and it comes as no surprise that his (Modi) claims are going in the reverse on the minimum government, maximum governance front. Government is entering every sphere of life. His approach to governance and decision making has interfered in every possible sphere, including demonetisation, making people feel the power of the government. Where is the minimum government here? And we don't know what happened to governance. Everything is so Prime Minister-centric today that nobody else matters," said AICC spokesperson Dinesh Gundu Rao.
The Congress had launched a scathing attack on the BJP even in 2016 when Modi expanded his cabinet. The BJP, however, is defensive about its government's decision. "The Congress party obviously is not keeping track of the maximum governance and achievements under three years of Modi government. If 300 million bank accounts and financial inclusion for the poorest of poor or 25 million subsidized gas connection to the poor or 750 million people taking benefits of the mudra program for self-employment among various other schemes are not examples of maximum governance then obviously the Congress party needs to go back to the drawing board and understand what maximum governance means," BJP National Spokesperson Nalin Kohli told OneIndia.
While the Modi government is being hailed for rewarding performance and including bureaucrats into the council of ministers, giving it an executive push, the opposition parties believe that it is a mere eyewash. "When everything is PM-centric, I don't know if the number of ministers, which is currently more than what the UPA II had, makes any difference. The cabinet expansion has no logic with no means of assessing who performed and who didn't. It is applaudable that a woman has been made the defense minister but Nirmala Sitaraman was commerce minister and how growth has been affected in the country is for all to see," Dinesh Gundu Rao added.
When questioned about the cabinet expansion destroying the very idea of minimum government, the BJP maintained that governance was not being compromised. The party instead mocked the Congress for its comments. "With regards to the number of ministers, the Congress-led UPA with 71 ministers brought maximum corruption and scams and definitely lack of governance. They certainly do not have a rationale to make allegations on us with this track record of theirs," Nalin Kohli added.