What are the choices before having a politician, who becomes the prime minister without have gone through the drill – of being a chief minister or senior central minister? Very few; he or she cannot even choose his or her own cabinet. However, once such people become PMs, they put together a core team of individuals who can give reality to their visions. The situation for experienced chief ministers, who become prime ministers, are even more complex. They are the prisoners of the past; they have to, thanks to human behaviour, depend on people who helped them reach where they are. They need to be dependable, loyal, and those who can deliver for they have to provide the foundations for future governance.
gfiles has carried two cover stories in October 2010 and July 2012 on the selection of the civil servants by the then Prime Minister’s Office. The November 2018 cover story ‘Firsts among equals’ is an introduction to those civil servants who are working with NDA regime.
Since an important fulcrum of governance is administration, civil servants are fundamental to its success in any regime. Hence, for over seven decades, every prime minister of India has toured the entire nation to search for and seek the best civil servants, the ones who he or she believes has the capacity and capability to deliver. It’s not because these chosen ones are better or more professional. It’s just that each PM, for some reason or the other, feels that they can help him or her to run the country in a manner that he or she has visualised. These are the so-called ‘PM’s Men’, who work with the rest of the administrative machinery to ensure that there is prosperity across the country, and in every district and village.
During each regime, there are whispers of how the PM is surrounded by his loyalists, who belong to his or her state, creed, community, or religion. If it happens, it is part-design, and part-default – before the PM became the PM, he or she possibly worked with certain civil servants, and was impressed by them. Hence, the memories of the past dictate the present and future. In most cases, the PM tries to cut through the social, economic, and political divisions to reach out to the best, who can then take the others along with them. Hence, the political and administrative machineries ensure to work in sync in the interests of the people. But the process is a delicate one.
If the balance is disturbed, if the process is skewed, either by design or default, it stresses the civil services, and tempers governance and administration. In the process, the nation and people lose. There cannot be caste-related and state-dominated lobbies in the administrative structure. It needs to be avoided at any cost with several checks and balances. All the PMs are aware of this possibility of an imbalance, of the possible fractures in governance. But since they are in a hurry to deliver the results, since they need to re-convince the masses to vote for them again, they may have bouts of mismatch. They may falter if they are not careful. Each time they choose a person to take on a specific responsibility, they have to stop and think.
Past experiences prove that governance works best when it is national, when it is open, and when it is expansive. However, the future may be different. Instead of the nation’s dependence on prime ministers, who can put together a team, to deliver national interests, the opposite may be true. The masses, who represent national interests, along with a core team of administrators that they select or pinpoint, may push the political structures to provide good governance and adequate administration. The people will decide through the civil services. Instead of an upside-down approach, there will be a bottom-up environment. This has to happen. It is the need of the day.