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'PM has gone for good administrators'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
Last updated on: July 23, 2021 07:59 IST
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'Whether it will create an impact or not, only time will tell.'

IMAGE: President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi with members of the council of ministers after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, July 7, 2021. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

The much anticipated ministerial reshuffle is over.

Can former bureaucrats perform better than politicians as ministers?

A retired Indian Administrative Service officer, Anil Swarup -- whp retired as India's education secretary -- feels it is a good decision to induct former bureaucrats and technocrats in the cabinet.

The first of a two-part interview with Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier:

 

It is said that the recent reshuffle was to bring in an economic growth of 8%-9%. Do you think bringing in new faces would change the economic scenario?

My initial reaction to the recent reshuffle was that the prime minister had gone for professionals and good administrators. Whether it will change the economic scenario or not, only time will tell.

If former bureaucrats are going to be ministers to bring in better performance, what is the role of politicians in administration?

In any Cabinet, anywhere in the world like the UK, France or the US, you see a combination of politicians, entrepreneurs, administrators, etc.

It's not politicians alone who run a country. Most of the civil servants who are in the ministry are very much in politics. All the officers who have joined the ministry have very good credentials.

If Mr R K Singh (the former home secretary) wins an election and becomes a minister, what is wrong in it? It is an added advantage for him having been an administrator before, now that he is a minister. It is not like he was just picked up and planted as a minister. The experience he had gained as an administrator would stand him in good stead.

I do not know what will happen later. I am only commenting on administrators becoming politicians and joining the ministry as ministers.

Every ministry has bureaucrats helping the ministers in policy decisions. Why then is it necessary for former administrators to be ministers?

It is not necessary for them to be ministers. But there is no harm in technocrats or bureaucrats becoming a minister if they join politics. They understand politics, They can also make use of the administrative skills they have gained during their tenure as a bureaucrat.

It is not a necessary condition for a minister to be a bureaucrat or an entrepreneur or a technocrat, but it certainly helps and adds value to what s/he is doing if s/he is a bureaucrat or a technocrat.

My contention is, you can't debar a technocrat or a bureaucrat from becoming a minister. The two extremes are not correct.

The attitude a politician brings in is different from what a bureaucrat or a technocrat brings in. So, you require all sorts of people in a ministry to bring in variety of experiences a person had in his or her bureaucratic or political career.

I feel bureaucrats and technocrats add a different flavour to the cabinet by bringing in their personal and professional experience.

IMAGE: President Ram Nath Kovind administers the oath of office to Ramchandra Prasad Singh, a former IAS officer, at Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 7. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

By different flavour, you mean professionalism?

Absolutely. Let's take for example someone like Mr R K Singh or Ashwini (Vaishnav) or R C P Singh. I am talking of these people as I know them. They know how the bureaucracy functions as they have been bureaucrats themselves. This would help them make things work.

R C P Singh is one of the one of the finest civil servants from UP cadre from where I also come. He chose to be a politician, and it is his democratic right to be in politics. So, he has the experience of understanding the ground realities of bureaucratic functioning. He would be able to use that knowledge and experience to keep things moving.

I feel it is a good move on the part of the government to bring in professionals into ministerial berths. Whether it will create an impact or not, only time will tell.

Is it like Dr Manmohan Singh becoming prime minister?

That's different. A prime minister's role is different from a minister's role. A prime minister is the symbol of the Executive of the country.

I have a lot of regard for Dr Manmohan Singh but if I were to take a call, I would rather have a politician as the prime minister of the country. That's because, from the country's perspective, the skills that are required to run a country are different from the skills that are required to run a ministry.

The perspective that a prime minister has to be multi-faceted, and he has to look into many more dimensions.

What is the difference between a politician as a prime minister and a politician as a minister? Anyway, ministers will have bureaucrats to guide them take decisions on various issues.

If you look at the ministry now, theb majority of the ministers are politicians. So, if they induct some professionals into the team, they will bring forth their own experiences and wisdom as a technocrat or a bureaucrat which is always good.

But a pure bureaucrat or a technocrat as the prime minister needs to have a different sort of vision to see the much more complex issues and problems. The attributes required of a prime minister are different from the attributes required of a minister because a minister is part of a team. In the ministerial team, it is good to have people from different walks of life.

But the prime minister who heads the team has to be the ultimate contributor, assimilator and communicator.

So, I feel a politician will make a better prime minister than a technocrat or a bureaucrat.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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