Is the consolidation of policy-making authority in the Prime Minister’s office a good thing for India?


Answer by Deepak Mehta:

Modi is working as the newly-appointed CEO that inherited a dying company. And his strategy would work for the next few months, but would need to be tweaked later.

This was something that was anticipated when Mr. Modi took charge and we have been seeing signs of it.
The problem with the previous NDA regime was an over-abundance of processes and controls and approvals. Things that entered the system did not see the light of day for months. Laws and approvals would be passed on from the office to the GOMs to the PM and there would be a lot of back and forth.

The first step was consolidation of ministries. The second was abolishing GOMs and EGOMs. The third was taking back control of the "most crucial" items from each ministry back to the PMO. Except in routine cases, the final approval would rest with Modi. This is akin to a corporate set-up wherein routine, day-to-day decisions are taken by the managers, short-term, strategic ones by the MDs and the VPs but anything that concerns crucial long-term, strategy decisions rest with the CEO.

Even in the PMO, Modi is constantly assisted by his team (experienced people specializing in Strategy, PR, Defense, Technology etc). Notice how it is similar to the Executive Committee of an organization (CFO, CSO, CMO, COO etc).

And if the model can work well in a Corporate set-up, it can work well in a political set-up too. Without the proper incentive schemes in place, no team can deliver great results.

However, this is good for the beginning. What he has inherited was a mess – political, procedural and economical. By bringing things under his control at the start and centralizing and speeding up the decision-making process, he is trying to undo the damage done by the previous government and sort out the mess. This is exactly what a newly-appointed CEO that inherited a dying company would do.

However, he would need to be ever-vigilant. He (and his team) would need to constantly monitor the state of things. The same strategy cannot (and does not) work in every situation. When (hopefully soon) things improve, he will need to start tweaking his methods and focus more on long-term goals, all the while slowly relinquishing control to the various major stakeholders.

P.S. I could not help but draw parallels to the Steve Jobs' second stint at Apple Inc where he made major changes, fired a lot of people, accumulated decision-making in his office etc.

A good read: The  once and future Steve Jobs

Is the consolidation of policy-making authority in the Prime Minister's office a good thing for India?


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