Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IIPM News - Perform or Perish

All newly appointed ministers will be assessed on the basis of a 100-day good governance action plan, writes Pramod Kumar

The Indian voters had said jai ho to the Congress, and party veterans were elated. But the young man who shaped the amazing victory, though satisfied with the unforeseen outcome, knew that he stood at the beginning of a long road. The very day after the victory bugle was sounded all young MPs were invited by Rahul Gandhi for high tea in the War Room on 15, Gurudwara, Rakab Ganj Road.

Initially most of them thought that the refreshments were just a prelude to the eagerly awaited announcement of Manmohan Singh’s new cabinet ministers. But they went back wiser. The Gandhi scion said not a word about this, and devoted his entire talk to the business of strengthening the organisation. His own assessment was that the century-old party needed to rebuild itself right from the grassroots.

At the end of Rahul’s speech an old pal of his wanted to know whether he planned to accept the offer to join the new cabinet. The man’s answer was an emphatic “NO”. Said Rahul: “As the youngest members of the Congress, our principal responsibility at this critical juncture is to re-dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the party. There will certainly be some young MPs in the new cabinet, but only those who have the approval of the prime minister and the party president.”

So well, the mind was clear and the message loud. And it has been like that since Day One. One doesn’t need to look far to see how unswerving the Congress this time has been in sticking to its proposed blueprint for the future. Right since the day the results came out, the party’s strategy has been to ensure that the pecking order stays undisturbed. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would continue to lead the government; Congress President Sonia Gandhi to manage the alliance; and Rahul would take charge of organisational matters.

Senior Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai told TSI that at his first press conference Rahul Gandhi was also emphatic about continuing with the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and giving a completely free hand to Manmohan Singh.

Rahul was even overheard telling Singh at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, “Till the election results were announced much of it was my responsibility. But now you take charge because I have a very important assignment on my hands – I have to strengthen the party organisation.” A senior minister of the Jammu and & Kashmir cabinet who was there said he had never imagined that Rahul would mature so fast.

The other person who mostly stayed away from the cabinet formation issue was Sonia Gandhi, who did not venture beyond suggesting a few names to ensure the regional balance was kept. In that initial list were R. P. N. Singh from UP and Sachin Pilot from Rajastan; Beni Prasad Verma and Dr. Sanjay Singh had been left out. Verma, who was earlier with the Samajwadi Party, did sound a bit disappointed, yet conceded the fact that the cabinet-forming exercise was indeed impressive.

Congress-watchers still recall the episode of May 2006 when, having completed two years in office, Manmohan Singh gave the Congress-led UPA government six marks out of ten. In the fact-sheet that was circulated at the press conference at No. 7, Race Course Road Manmohan had scribbled the assessment in his own hand. When journalists asked his media adviser Sanjay Baru whether this meant that the PM was unhappy with the performance of his own government, Baru had said that it merely signified that he wanted his own party and allies to do still better. Then only, he was convinced, would the poorest of the poor find relief.

The last time around, the PM had been highly dissatisfied with the portfolios held by the DMK, as also with his own partyman Shivraj Patil who had been made home minister. So this time Singh took some truly hard decisions. Patil, Arjun Singh and T. R. Balu, who had performed poorly, were thrown out.

Well placed sources said that at the CPP meeting Sonia Gandhi made it very clear that the mandate was for the good work done by the Manmohan Singh-led government and the PM’s own clean image. It was the common minimum programme that had enabled the party to reach the high tally. “To sustain it we need to give full support to Manmohan Singh so that he can do more wonderful work with his colleagues.”

Indeed, the party’s central message is as simple as it is clear: Be honest and work hard. Said cabinet minister Veerappa Moily: “The Manmohan Singh government’s achievement and the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were what handed the Congress its dramatic win. And we shall work overtime to fulfill the people’s great expectations. There can be no room for complacency.”

There is a good deal of truth in this. For, already the party has prepared a 100-day plan to ensure good governance. On how well the newly appointed ministers fare will depend which of them is retained and which shown the door.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2008
An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative