Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he assumed power in 2014, seemed indifferent at best to the idea of multiple cabinet committees on various issues of governance. He even disbanded several that had existed under the Manmohan Singh government. Now that he has set up a couple of cabinet committees to address the problems of slowing economic growth and rising unemployment, might he have had a rethink on them?
The answer may lie in the composition of these committees. Modi himself will head them, and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal are on both, but nobody can miss the inclusion of Home Minister Amit Shah, the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party whose induction to the Union Cabinet has made observers wonder if the Modi 2.0 government will function a little differently from his previous regime. The signal being read is that it indeed will. The Prime Minister’s Office will stay the final word on various matters, it seems, but Shah’s say on significant matters of economic policy—growth and jobs being the two main challenges—would be a new factor.
Gross domestic product growth slumped to a 20-quarter low of 5.8 % in Q4 of 2018-19, by the official statistics, with the entire year’s growth slipping to a five-year low of 6.8%. The government’s measure of unemployment reached a high of 6.1 % in 2017-18. Disappointment on these two variables has finally been acknowledged. Slightly decentralized decision-making, with varied inputs, could be a help. However, merely setting up committees to formulate policies or institute policy changes will not suffice. What is required is the creation of a link between planning and implementation. Maybe Shah, who has proven himself as a master strategist of electoral campaigns, will know exactly what to do.