The first meeting of the National Advisory Council slated for July 17 is expected to send out unambiguous signals to various central ministries that laxity in performance would not go unnoticed, Congress sources have indicated.
The NAC has been constituted to verify whether the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government's policies and actions stay true to the common minimum programme and monitor whether they are in tune with the people's aspirations.
Headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi who also chairs the UPA, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nominated its 12 other members in consultation with the chairperson. Arun Bhatnagar, who recently retired as personnel secretary in the central government, will serve as its secretary.
With Gandhi also being seen as the conscience keeper of the government, the NAC is expected to keep the ministers on their toes.
The Congress chief is reportedly keen to show results in the vital sectors of agriculture, education, health and employment in which the previous National Democratic Alliance led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had proved to be a failure notwithstanding its claim of 'India Shining'. The NAC's aim is to ensure this goal is met.
Members of the NAC are expected to pool in their expertise in their respective fields and recommend measures to help various ministries give a better account of themselves. They will also gather feedback on the situation at the grassroots level.
"The idea is to show results at the ground-level and not hide behind (government) statistics, which are meaningless," a senior Congress leader told rediff.com.
Congress leaders describe the NAC as the UPA government's link with society.
Its members reflect a fairly wide cross section of society:
- Jairam Ramesh, Congress' economic expert
- Sam Pitroda, technology whiz-kid
- Jean Dreze of the Delhi School of Economics, also an economist-activist
- V Krishnamurthy, technocrat, ex-Maruti Udyog Limited chief
- C H Hanumantha Rao, chairman, Centre of Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad
- Aruna Roy, spearheaded Right to Information Campaign in Rajasthan
- Mirai Chatterjee, coordinator of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), Ahmedabad
- Madhav Chavan, of NGO Pratham
- N C Saxena, a former bureaucrat
- A K Shivkumar, adviser to UNICEF on education
- D Swaminathan, Mahatma Gandhi National Institute of Research and Social Action, Hyderabad
- Jayprakash Narayan, national coordinator of Hyderabad-based NGO Loksatta
As chairperson, Gandhi will enjoy the rank of a cabinet minister. This is the first time that something like the NAC has been constituted and is likely to set a precedent.
About the possibility of Gandhi emerging as a parallel power centre, a source in the leader told rediff.com that Gandhi and the prime minister had complete understanding. They meet for an hour every week to discuss matters pertaining to implementation of the CMP and other issues.
"People need not harbour misgivings about there being two power centres. He (Singh) is the prime minister and she (Gandhi) is the chairperson of the UPA and the NAC. They function in sync and have no differences," she said.