India's Modi carries out pledge to downsize government

Richard L. Benkin
In office only five days, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already showing people how a small government, conservative head of state acts.  Without even touching his people’s services or their quality, he began on his very first day in office fulfilling his promise to cut the size of his country’s bloated government.

He began by swearing in only 23 cabinet ministers, combining several portfolios and eliminating others.  It was the smallest number of cabinet posts in 16 years.  Only five days later, the Prime Minister did away with an entire layer of government by summarily abolishing the country’s 30 “ministerial groups.”  These groups were designed to protect entrenched and immediate interests, whether legitimate or not; and stood between India’s citizenry and the cabinet.  They had to give their blessing to any measure requiring cabinet approval before it could even get there for deliberation.  Under the previous, left leaning Congress Party government, ministerial committees numbered as many as 60.

Modi, whose theme has been “minimum government, maximum governance,” got rid of these groups even though in doing so he took on more personal responsibility and the greater accountability that comes with it.  According to The Hindustan Times, their abolition means that Modi himself “will now have to adjudicate matters where there are differences among cabinet colleagues,” rather than having an additional bureaucratic layer to cut deals and run interference for him.  And he will be responsible for those decisions, something his immediate predecessors assiduously avoided.

Reducing the size of government and speeding up the pace of decision-making are two critical elements in the free market conservative Modi’s plans to revitalize the Indian economy and polity and make government responsive to the Indian people.

In office only five days, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already showing people how a small government, conservative head of state acts.  Without even touching his people’s services or their quality, he began on his very first day in office fulfilling his promise to cut the size of his country’s bloated government.

He began by swearing in only 23 cabinet ministers, combining several portfolios and eliminating others.  It was the smallest number of cabinet posts in 16 years.  Only five days later, the Prime Minister did away with an entire layer of government by summarily abolishing the country’s 30 “ministerial groups.”  These groups were designed to protect entrenched and immediate interests, whether legitimate or not; and stood between India’s citizenry and the cabinet.  They had to give their blessing to any measure requiring cabinet approval before it could even get there for deliberation.  Under the previous, left leaning Congress Party government, ministerial committees numbered as many as 60.

Modi, whose theme has been “minimum government, maximum governance,” got rid of these groups even though in doing so he took on more personal responsibility and the greater accountability that comes with it.  According to The Hindustan Times, their abolition means that Modi himself “will now have to adjudicate matters where there are differences among cabinet colleagues,” rather than having an additional bureaucratic layer to cut deals and run interference for him.  And he will be responsible for those decisions, something his immediate predecessors assiduously avoided.

Reducing the size of government and speeding up the pace of decision-making are two critical elements in the free market conservative Modi’s plans to revitalize the Indian economy and polity and make government responsive to the Indian people.