(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Chapter: 4 (Union Government and Administration) – P.M & PMO (Paper -2)

Paper – 2
Chapter: 4 (Union Government and Administration)


Parliamentary democracy in India envisages the presence of a
nominal and a real executive. They are the President and the Prime Minister
res­pectively. This is an attempt to explain the role of the Prime Minister as
the ‘real chief executive’ by examining his position vis-a-vis various other
functionaries and institutions through whom he exercises power and fulfils his
constitu­tional and political obligations. To begin with, a brief description of
the process of his appointment and removal would be pertinent.

Appointment And Removal

Article 75 (1) of the Indian Constitution provides that the
Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other ministers shall
be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Besides this,
the Constitution does not say anything regarding his appointment. The
Constitution permits a person to be appointed Prime Minister without his or her
being a member of either House of Parliament at the time of appointment.’ But
such a person can be Prime Minister only for six months. Before the expiry of
this time, he has to become a member of either the Council of States, the Rajya
Sabha or the House of the People, the Lok Sabha? However, we have developed a
convention which requires that the President should appoint the leader of a
party or a group of parties who commands majority support in the House of the
People as Prime Minister?

As regards the removal of the P.M. by the President, Article
75(2) which conditions his continuance in office dependent on “the pleasure of
the President” has to be read with Article 75(3) which states that all the
ministers are collectively responsible to the House of the People. This is taken
to mean that so long as the P.M. is able to command majority support in the Lok
Sabha, there is no threat to his continuance in office.

We can now examine the powers and position of the P.M. within
the structural framework in which he functions.

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Relations With The President

Articles 74, 75 and 78 broadly govern the relationship
between the Prime Minister and the President. The chief function of the P.M.
going by Article 74, is that of rendering aid and tendering advice to the
President. After the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution (1976), Article 74(1)
reads: “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the
head, to aid and advise the President who shall in the exercise of his functions
act in accordance with such advice.”’ Amendment 44(1978) added the following to
the same article, “provided that the President may require the Council of
Ministers to recon­sider such advice, either generally or otherwise, and the
President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such
reconsideration.”5 The article authorises the President to ask the Council to
reconsider its advice, but, after reconsideration, if the Council sticks to its
earlier advice, the President can do nothing but accept it.

Article 75(2) governs another aspect of the relationship
between the two. It says that “Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure
of the President.”

Article 78 specifies certain duties of the P.M. in relation
to the President. It places an obligation on the P.M. to convey to the President
all decisions of the Council relating to the administration of affairs of the
Union and proposals for legislation. He has to furnish the President with such
information relating to the affairs of the Union and proposal for legislation as
the President may call for. If the President so requires, the P.M. has to submit
for the consideration of the council of ministers any matter on which a decision
had been taken by a minister but which has not been considered by the Council.
Article 78, by imposing these duties on the P.M., “enables the President to
exercise his rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn.”6

These articles have given rise to heated controversies from
time to time. In fact, as early as 1951, the first President of India had raised
the question as to whether the President was always bound by the advice of the
P.M. and his cabinet. However, the controversy took the form of a violent
political storm during 1984-89 and the relationship between the President and
the Prime Minister deteriorated steadily. Without going into the details of
those turbu­lent times, let us briefly examine three issues that surfaced as a
result of this controversy:

(a) Is the President Always Bound by the Advice of the P.M.?

The answer to this question is that he is bound by the advice
except in a few exceptional circumstances. One such case, when the advice can be
disre­garded, is provided by Article 85(1). Under this article, the President
must summon a meeting of each House of Parliament and more than six months
should not elapse between two consecutive sessions. However, if the P.M. advises
him not to convene a session even when the said term is about to expire, then by
not convening the session on account of such advice, the President would be
violating the Constitution, for which he could be impeached. Hence, he can
disregard such advice.

(b) Is the P.M. under an Obligation to Furnish to the
President such Information as He may Require?

It is the duty of the P.M. to keep the President duly
informed and if both act in good faith, there may be no complaints. Yet, during
his tenure, the President may for any reason shift his loyalties from the party
that got him elected and start meeting leaders of the opposition with the
intention of bringing about the fall of the government. In such cases, the P.M.
would be justified in withhold­ing information from the President. H.M. Seervai
gives yet another ground for withholding information. He says, “the information
that the President re­quires may not be limited to financial scandals. It may
refer to matters which may gravely affect the national security or internal

(c) Can the President Grant Sanction to Prosecute the P.M.
on Charges of Corruption?

The President cannot give sanction for the legal prosecution
of the P.M., unless his guilt is established by a court of law.8 However, if the
guilt is established, the President can order his prosecution under the
Anti-Corrup­tion Act. Article 6 of the statute also states that permission for
such a trial can be given by an officer who is empowered to remove the concerned

As Head of The Council of Ministers

The concept of primus inter pares does not appear to be
appropriate in the context of the Indian P.M. He is not only the first among
equals but the keystone of the cabinet arch. “The P.M. represents the whole of
the executive govern­ment in a way that no single member of the Council of
Ministers or even the whole of the Council of Ministers can.”9 The President
appoints ministers on the advice of the P.M. who decides about the size of the
cabinet. The P.M. has a free hand in the distribution of portfolios, can review
such distribution, reshuffle the ministries and request any minister to resign
if his services are not considered necessary. Broadly speaking, the Indian Prime
Ministers, with the exception of Lal Bahadur Shastri, have had a free hand in
the appointment and dismissal of ministers. The P.M. can keep one or more
portfolios to himself. It he keeps the Home, Finance or Defence portfolios to
himself, it leads to a high degree of concen­tration of power in his hands. The
Home Minister is the most important person in the calculus of power after the
P.M. himself and when the two positions are amalgamated, this can catapult the
P.M. to dizzy heights of power.

The Prime Minister’s next important role, after the formation
of the cabinet, is the coordination of the cabinet activities. As the chairman
of the cabinet, the P.M. decides when the cabinet meetings are to be held. He
controls the agenda and it is for him to accept or reject proposals for
discussion submitted by the ministers. All decisions of the cabinet are
generally unanimous but if, on a rare occasion, voting does take place, as
chairman of the cabinet, the P.M. has the casting vote. After the allocation of
portfolios, the P.M. also keeps an eye on what is going on in the various
departments and he can intervene if he feels that things are not going on
smoothly or in accordance with the goals and policies of the government. He has
to coordinate and guide the working of the various ministers and ministries. He,
more than anyone else, must endeavour to see the work of the government as a
whole and bring the various governmental activities into reasonable relationship
with one another. He is the manager-in chief of the government’s business. He
should be genuinely familiar with the business of each department and should
ensure their functioning in an effective manner.

A Prime Minister must be approachable, ready to listen,
intellectually alert and capable of offering sagacious advice to his team
members. All disagree­ments must, as far as possible, be resolved by personal
contacts and discus­sions. Often, tactics of coercion do not work and, hence, he
has to take recourse to effective persuasion. The view of Sir Ivor Jennings in
relation to the British Prime Ministers also applies to their Indian
counterparts. He says: “Their [the Prime Ministers’] power rests on free
opinion, but they are not dictators. They can do unpopular things but
retribution follows if popularity is irretrievably lost.”” If a P.M. fails to
proceed tactfully, he may shatter the government and leave his leadership
condemned. This is what Herman Finer had to say about the style to be adopted by
the British P.M. and this is what the Indian P.M. also ought to do. “The P.M.
has to make the cabinet work, it is his; he must give it cohesion; he must
arbitrate differences of view and personality; he must fit all the necessary
talents together into a reputable team.”” It would be interesting, in this
context to know what Nehru had to say about his role vis-a-vis the cabinet. He

I have to deal with every ministry, not as head of one
particular ministry but as a coordinator and a kind of supervisor. Naturally,
this can only be done effectively with tact and goodwill and without in any way
diminishing the prestige of other ministers. Other ministers must not normallybe
interfered with and should have the freedom to carry out their work without
unnec­essary interference.” The style of each Prime Minister may vary, but it
would be best if he provided sound guidance at the policy-making stage and then
let his ministe­rial colleagues function freely. Speaking of the present time, a
Union minister’s views on the Prime Ministerial style lays stress on consensus
and discussion. He observed:

From the time I took oath till today, he has never interfered
with my ministry. We have discussed a number of times and he has expressed his
views. He has also given guidance. But, it is not like him to bypass the
minister or call papers.”

Although the work of coordination is also done by the various
cabinet committees, it is the P.M. who decides how this coordination should be
brought about. He decides what cabinet committees there will be, appoints their
chairmen and presides over some committees himself.

The cabinet is thus a unity and collective responsibility is
the method by which this unity is secured. The question of divided
responsibility does not arise because the cabinet, though plural, has to
function as a unit essentially under the leadership of the P.M. Teamwork is the
sine qua non of the cabinet system and the P.M. must strive hard to maintain it
at all costs. The doctrine of ministerial responsibility means two things: (1)
each minister carries on the work of a particular ministry and, for that, he is
individually responsible and (2) all the members of the cabinet accept
responsibility for the decisions of the cabinet. They all must express and
represent uniform political opinions under the leadership of the P.M. and must
sink or swim together. They are all bound by the cabinet decisions and anyone
who is not willing to do so, must resign. The term ‘collective responsibility’
stands for the responsibility of the cabinet before the nation as a whole and
before the Parliament. In the Parliament, the government is held accountable
continuously for its actions and a breakdown of cabinet solidarity would result
in the loss of parliamentary support.

As Integral Part of Parliament

The Prime Minister, by virtue of being the leader of the
majority party in the Lok Sabha, is also expected to provide leadership in the
House. After consultation with the cabinet, the P.M. advises the President to
summon the Parliament and to prorogue the session. But, his advice to prorogue
need not be accepted if it is given to save his ministry. Similarly if the P.M.
is obliged to resign on account of losing the support of the majority in the Lok
Sabha, the President may refuse his advice to dissolve the House, if, an
alternative government can be formed. He also sees that the proceedings of the
Parliament are conducted with dignity and decorum. Sometimes, members of
Parliament may behave in an unruly manner and the mediation of the P.M. can save
the House from much embarrassment.

The Prime Minister is also an integral part of the process of
legislation in the Parliament. All important bills emanate from the cabinet.
Hence, no important bill can be introduced in the Lok Sabha without his consent.
He also guides the bills through the various stages in the House. He, together
with the Speaker, prepares a tentative programme for the Lok Sabha for each week
as well as for each day, schedules legislations in the daily programme,
allocates priorities to the bills that are to be introduced and, for this
purpose, also participates in the Business Advisory Committee of the House.

Though, he is the leader of the majority party, the P.M. must
also try to win cooperation and support of the opposition. He must pay attention
to the opinions, demands, grievances and reactions of the opposition. He comes
face to face with the opposition in the Parliament during the question hour. The
opposition members may question him and he must answer their queries
satisfactorily. Much of his prestige depends on his performance during the
question hour and, therefore, adequate preparation and groundwork has to be done
beforehand by the P.M. Speaking of Mrs. Gandhi’s performance in Parliament, her
Principal Secretary, P.C. Alexander says that she was particularly at ease in
her role in Parliament. He says:

She used to prepare well for answering questions and get
herself thoroughly briefed by the officers of the concerned departments at least
a day before the question came up in the Parliament…. She would go through
each question with meticulous care. She would often revise the draft answers at
these meetings.

The Prime Minister has some role to play in the context of
the Rajya Sabha also. The twelve members that the President appoints to the
Rajya Sabha are appointed on the advice of the P.M. He can also act as a
mediator if the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha have differences of opinion.

The Prime Minister and His Party

The Prime Minister, who plays a crucial role in strengthening
and keeping his party together, has to maintain an alert hold over all the party
organizations at the central, regional and local levels. He should have the
support of not the parliamentary party alone but also of its organizational
wings. The strength of the party lies in its mass base. Therefore, efforts must
be made to strengthen the party at the grassroots. He should also ensure that
the party members carry out the policies and programmes of the government
faithfully. He can use his office status and authority to keep the rank and file
in discipline and in check. For these reasons, the P.M. can, and often does,
keep the post of the party president to himself. Unchallenged leadership in the
various committees of the party and its various boards helps in keeping his
position intact.
However strong the hold of the P.M. over his party is, his own fate is also tied
up with that of the party. A disgruntled party can soon break up and, therefore,
often the P.M. has to toe the party line. He cannot always have his own way.
Sincere and continuous efforts must be made by him because a weak party, sooner
or later, brings about the collapse of the government.
Divisions, rebellions, dismissals, party splits, defections, desertions and
violations of cabinet secrecy can lead to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha as it
happened in 1991. Hence, it can be said that in the strength of the P.M. lies
the strength of the party and vice-versa.


The Finance Minister and the Prime Minister have to work in
close collabora­tion, enjoying total mutual trust and adjustment. The budget and
the impor­tant money bills are prepared under the close supervision and scrutiny
of the P.M. He is the chairman of the Planning Commission which formulates Five
Year Plans and other important economic programmes for the country. He himself
can also design and guide the formulations of programmes for the economic
development of the nation. The Twenty Point Programme of Indira Gandhi and the
Jawahar Rozgar Yojna of Rajiv Gandhi can be cited as examples. He can help the
states during natural calamities by providing relief from the P.M.’s Relief

The Prime Minister has an important role to play in the
National Develop­ment Council (NDC) too. The NDC of which the P.M. is the
chairman, functions as a high-power consultative body which coordinates the
policies and programmes of the states comprising the Indian Union. It is also a
forum for discussion of economic plans, the problems facing the Indian economy,
and the policies to be adopted for handling the urgent financial and economic


The Prime Minister is the chief representative of the nation
in the international sphere. He participates in international conferences, pays
official visits to foreign countries, maintains relations with the UN and other
international organizations, negotiates with heads of states, signs treaties and
agreements, advises the President to declare war and conclude peace, and advises
the President to grant or withhold recognition to nations. Throughout, he has to
maintain a very close collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the
Ministry of External Affairs. If he is heard, known and respected outside India,
it helps him gain greater prestige even within the country. Nehru, for instance,
was a person much adored in some segments of international community anti had
carved a special niche for himself in the Third World because of his principle
of Panchasheel. This helped him a great deal on the home-front.


The emergency powers of the Indian President are, in fact,
the powers of the P.M. A decision regarding the imposition of emergency, under
Articles 352, 356 or 360, is taken by the P.M., while the President, who has to
abide by the advice of the P.M., makes a proclamation to that effect. Under
Article 352(1), emergency can be imposed in the whole of India or part of it, if
the President is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of
India or a part thereof is threatened by war or external aggression or armed
rebellion. Under Article 356(1), emergency can be declared if the President, on
receipt of a report from the Governor of a state, or otherwise, is satisfied
that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be
carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Emergency
under Article 360(1) can be declared if the President is satisfied that a
situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India is
threatened. The last kind of emergency under Article 360(1) has never been
imposed in India so far.

Articles 352 and 356 are more known for their misuse rather
than correct use. This does not mean that situations of genuine necessity were
never there. It was necessary in 1962 during the Chinese aggression and during
the Pakistani aggression of 1971. Till then, there had been no public protest.
The emergency was no doubt, kept in force long after the need was over but the
Parliament, judiciary and the press were free. However, the possibility of
misuse of Article 352 came into sharp focus during the emergency of 1975-77.

A briefcase study of this is given to highlight the
authoritarian powers the P.M. can assume during such an emergency.

The seeds of the infamous emergency of 1975 can be traced
back to the well­ known decision of Judge J. Sinha of the Allahabad High Court
on 12 June,1975. The judge held Mrs. Gandhi guilty of corrupt electoral
practices and debarred her from holding any public office for six years. The
court granted her only a conditional stay. In order to forestall a public demand
for her removal, without consulting her cabinet colleagues, she advised the
President to declare emer­gency and he did so on 26 June, 1975. Proper grounds
for such a declaration were not present. “There was no alarm on the economic
front, law and order situation was under control, the Home Ministry had no
adverse reports indicating deterioration of law and order, the Home Ministry had
not submit­ted-such a report and the Intelligence Bureau had also not submitted
any such report.”” But the declaration of emergency gave her time she needed.
The consequences were highly detrimental to democracy. Severe censorship was
imposed on the press, the Maintenance of Internal Security Act was brought into
active use, there were indiscriminate arrests and all important opposition
leaders were imprisoned. In 1975 itself, the 39th Amendment Act was passed
according to which the election disputes involving dignitaries such as the
President, the Vice President, the P.M. and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha were
placed outside the jurisdiction of the courts. Special provisions had to be made
for decision by another authority. In 1976, the 42nd Amendment Act was passed
according to which it was absolutely imperative for the President to abide by
the advice of the P.M. The emergency continued up to the first quarter of 1977
and elections were held in March.”

As regards Article 356, it is one which has truly been
blatantly misused. Time and again, it has been imposed by the President on the
states on the reports of the Governors. While making such declarations, the
President is clearly dictated by the P.M. who obviously uses the article to
bring about the downfall of opposition-run state governments for a variety of
reasons, not all of them always convincing.

To help the Prime Minister discharge his varied
responsibilities, there is a Prime Minister’s Office to provide him aid and
advice. Mrs Gandhi’s style of functioning and some political compulsions led not
only to a phenomenal increase in the powers of the Prime Minister but also a
sharp rise in the authority and influence exercised by the P.M.O., headed by the
Principal Secretary. A discussion on the office therefore would be pertinent at
this point.


The Prime Minister’s Secretariat came into being on August
15, 1947 when India gained independence. Since June 1977, it is known as the
Prime Minister’s Office. The Secretariat was created for the immediate purpose
of taking over the functions performed till then by the Secretary to the
Governor-General (G.G), as the P.M. took over almost all the functions which the
G. G., prior to independence, performed as the executive head of the government.
It is an extra-constitutional institution that has no mention in the Indian
Constitution.” However, it was given the status of a Department under the
Government of India Allocation of Business Rules, 1961.

The PMO is headed by the Secretary to the P.M., who is now
designated as the Principal Secretary to the P.M. The organisational hierarchy
of the office is as follows:

1. Principal Secretary : He heads the bureaucratic
pyramid at the PMO and deals with all governmental files in the office. He also
looks after the affairs of the various ministries that the P.M. may ask him to
2. Additional Secretary : He looks after the personnel and policy matters
of the ministries that the P.M. may ask him to look after.
3. Joint Secretary (I) : He looks after Home Affairs, Law and justice.
4. Joint Secretary (II) : He handles the administration of the PMO and
the Ministries of Surface Transport, Communications, Railways and Civil
5. Joint Secretary (III) : He looks after the Ministries of External
Affairs, Defence and the Department of Atomic Energy.
6. Director (I) : This is an Officer on Special Duty who looks after
rural development and civil supplies.
7. Director (II) : He is incharge of Home Affairs.
8. Director (III) : He is the odd job-man in the PMO. He has no fixed
responsibilities, and hence acts as a trouble-shooter.
9. Director (IV) : He has been assigned the task of looking after matters
connected with the various state governments, especially those in the

This distribution of work is not a permanent one and the P.M.
may modify it according to changing needs.
Below the above officers are several functionaries belonging to class I, II, III
and IV services. Generally the status of the officers of the PMO can be taken to
be the same as that of officers of corresponding ranks in the ministries of the
government, Yet, in the late 1980s, it was realised that there were several
advantages of being posted in the PMO. It has been remarked that to the
traditional list of advantages,-power, perquisites and patronage-must now be
added a fourth ‘P’-promotions.” When the government announced three promotions
of senior officials to the rank of Secretary in March 1987, two of them turned
out to be in the PMO. However, this may not be a consistent phenomenon,

Broadly, the jurisdiction of the PMO extends over all such
subjects and activities as are not specially allotted to any individual
department. The functions, in brief, are:

(a) to deal with all references which under the Rules of
Business come to the P.M.;
(b) to help the P.M. in the discharge of his overall responsibilities as the
chief executive; it includes keeping liaison with the Union ministries and state
governments on matters in which the P.M. may be interested;
(c) to help the P.M. in the discharge of his responsibilities as the chairman of
the Planning Commission;
(d) to deal with the public relations side of the PMO; and
(e) to provide the P.M. assistance in the examination of cases submitted to him
for orders under prescribed rules.

The above-mentioned functions should not be taken to mean
that they contain the entire spectrum of functions performed by the PMO. It also
helps the P.M. in preparing answers to questions which cannot be answered by any
particular ministry, handles the correspondence of the P.M. and prepares the
drafts of important speeches and declarations of the P.M. In contemporary times,
it has virtually become the “think tank” of the P.M. The idea behind its
creation was to leave the P.M. with enough time to concentrate on major policy
decisions by processing all the proposals that are sent to him. Its importance
increases because the P.M. is the coordinator of the cabinet. Due to its
proximity to the P.M., it plays an influential role in the cabinet activity as
well. Since the P.M. is the chairman of the Planning Commission, the PMO
exercises considerable influence during the deliberations and formulation of the
plans. Although the External Affairs Ministry is a regular and large ministry,
in reality, it is the P.M., in consultation with his office and the ministry who
designs and guides the foreign policy of the nation.”

The Principal Secretary

The role of the PMO since independence has depended on the
individual style of functioning of the P.M. However, with the exception of the
Nehru era and the Janata regime of 1977-79, the office has witnessed a steep
rise in terms of power and prestige. Nehru never relied on it or banked upon it
much and during his time, the P.M.’s office was placed under the Cabinet
Secretariat. The Shastri period in the mid-sixties gave a tremendous boost to
this office. Shastri appointed L. K. Jha as the Secretary to the P.M. Jha’s role
has been unparalleled in the history of the PMO. Michael Brecher then rightly

There is ample evidence to indicate that the P.M.’s
Secretariat, through the forceful personality of L. K. Jha, has become a major
power centre in all India politics and an interest group in its own right. He
[L. K. Jha] has exerted pressure on many issues, notably in the vital spheres of
economic policy and foreign affairs.

After Shastri, Mrs. Gandhi assumed office and she too relied
heavily on the services of Jha. It was during her reign that the office of the
Secretary reached “dizzy heights of power and authority and, during the internal
emergency, it emerged as the real decision-making organisation verily
functioning as the Government of India.” Jha also accompanied Mrs. Gandhi on her
trips abroad. In 1967, he was sent by Mrs. Gandhi to Moscow, London, Paris,
Washington and Berne to participate in the deliberations regarding the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The significance of such trips can be gauged by the
fact that a civil servant was deliberating with leaders such as

Johnson and Kosygin. In 1967, P. N. Haksar, who became the
new Secretary, also became the closest confidante of the P.M. He advised her on
all political and party matters. Their successors too exercised a similar
influence. In the mid-sixties, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was also
added to the P.M.’s Secretariat. This soon came to be known as the personal
intelligence network of the P.M. The emergency of 1975-77, with its bureaucratic
excesses, dimmed the image of the Secretariat. During the Janata regime of
1977-79, efforts were made to reduce its excessive importance, the number of
personnel was reduced and it was designated as the PMO.

When Mrs. Gandhi again resumed office, P. C. Alexander took
over as the new Secretary (1981-84). His book, My Years with Indira Gandhi gives
a detailed account of his role as the Principal Secretary. Alexander says that
he was associated closely with all governmental affairs. Talking of one specific
role, he says that his most important responsibility as Principal Secretary was
assisting the P.M. in preparing replies to parliamentary questions and
collect­ing information for answering possible supplementary questions. This
im­plies that the Principal Secretary must have constantly been on his toes
during parliamentary sessions. Another important highlight of his role was ins
inclusion in quite a few foreign visits of Mrs. Gandhi and the influence that he
might have exerted on decision-making in foreign affairs. Alexander was a
regular component of every delegation abroad. It becomes significant in the
light of the fact that on quite a few occasions, even Narasimha Rao, the then
Foreign Affairs Minister was not included in these delegations, but Alexander
was. Interestingly, Alexander also points out that he was taken into confidence
whenever Mrs. Gandhi reshuffled her cabinet.”

During Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as P.M. (1984-89), the office of
the Principal Secretary to P.M. grew further in importance. The scope and
significance of the office was growing so rapidly during the last two years of
Rajiv Gandhi’s rule that it occupied an extra 12,000 sq. feet of office space
occupied earlier by the neighbouring Ministry of External Affairs and forced the
ministry to move out partially to a former hotel.27 Even during 1989-91, a
period of severe political instability, the office and its occupants were
heavily relied upon and, even today, it is growing from strength to strength.

Narashimha Rao’s Period

Some observers feel that most Prime Ministers have regarded
the PMO as a parallel government. As already mentioned, the trend of
centralization in political parties and in the seats of political executive has
catapulted the position of PMO at the acme of the governance system. Under Prime
Minister Narasimha Rao, political assistance to him in the PMO has been provided
mostly by Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi, Minister of State in the PMO. In late 1995,
another Minister of State, Aslam Sher Khan, was inducted into the PMO, though in
the initial phase of his entry, there was considerable ambiguity about his
specific role.”
At the administrative level, A.N. Verma has been working as the Principal
Secretary to the Prime Minister vis-a-vis the Cabinet Secretary, he continued to
hold a stronger position in the decision-making system until the appoint­ment of
Surinder Singh as the Cabinet Secretary. Observers see a kind of ‘balance of
influence’ emerging between these two supreme administrative positions in the
central government. Much, however, depends upon the way the incumbents to these
positions perceive their respective roles. And, the determining factor in
developing a harmonious equation between the formal authority of the Cabinet
Secretary and the informal influence of the Principal Secretary to the Prime
Minister continues to be the Prime Minister himself. Notwithstanding the
vicissitudes in the real influence of the PMO, one can visualize its continuing
ascendancy in the foreseeable future.


The Indian Prime Minister occupies a position of exceptional
and overwhelm­ing authority and is for all purposes, the real chief executive.
The powers listed are, by far, a modest appreciation of the P.M.’s position. As
the working head of the state, he is endowed with such a plenitude of power as
no other constitutional ruler in the world possesses. However, finally, it is up
to him to make the best of the office because the office is necessarily what the
holder chooses to make of it.

Whatever the party in power and whosoever has filled the post
of the Prime Minister, i t has been observed that there has been a growing
tendency towards centralization indecision-making. Not only does a P.M.,
sometimes, keep with himself an unduly large number of portfolios but also
informally exerts his real influence beyond those formally held portfolios. In
case the P.M. should be politically unchallenged in his party, his control over
other ministries and departments, through the mechanism of monitoring, can be
highly penetrat­ing. As India gains greater maturity in its democratic
functioning, the need is to let a culture of decentralization and autonomy
coupled with a deep sense of accountability to various levels percolate. The
Prime Minister’s role, as the chief executive of the nation, can be strengthened
only if he is supported by a team of self-motivated and responsible ministers
and other functionaries.


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