April 22, 2021
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Passing The Buck

Passing The Buck

Ever since the UPA came to power, from its first avatar onwards, one of its distinctive features has been the game of passing the buck that seems to be perpetually on. With two power-centres, and no clear sense of direction or strategy, the Congress hierarchy and government often appear to be working at cross-purposes. And how, for every crisis, the knee-jerk response seems always be to announce yet another empowered group of ministers (EGOM).

Writing in the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta points out that while an EGOM could be a useful mechanism for policy coordination and consensus building, it "seems to now exemplify the pathologies of governance; it has become a knee-jerk response to crises and often appears more like an elaborate mechanism to evade responsibility than to produce results".

He reiterates that most of our recent crises - from Manipur to Telangana - have had their origins in this chaos of the internal contradictions of the Congress with no signal as to who exactly is in charge and will take responsibility, reconcile differences and announce a firm decision:

Then there is a curious phenomenon. The normally reticent and restrained Sonia Gandhi decided to intervene on two issues whose logic from the point of view of governance is half-baked: the women’s reservation bill and the caste census. Both these issues, in different ways, increased governance challenges. But while no one doubts that she is the ultimate power, it only adds to confusion when no one is clear why she chooses to assert herself on some issues and not on others. The failure of anyone in this supposedly pro-poor government to try and convince us that they take inflation seriously, is just one example where we are left wondering why our leaders get agitated about some issues and not others. The same confusion applies to the prime minister. Hence the sense of disarray.

... Both the prime minister and Congress president seem to be unmindful of one important function of government. In times of crisis, or national anger or shame, leaders perform two functions. They provide a reassurance that someone is clearly in charge and takes responsibility, that someone has the capacity to reconcile differences and be decisive. The second — and this is particularly the function of a prime minister — they have the ability to send a signal that they truly care and are listening. Instead, what we seem to get is a parcelling of responsibility off to this collective group. Leaders give genuine reassurance, restore confidence and give consolation. Does anyone imagine that an EGOM on Bhopal might perform that function?

Read on at the Indian Express: Buck Stops With An EGOM


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