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What is a cabinet?  A council of ministers who are assigned specific ministries / departments at different levels who individually and in lots of decisions are collectively responsible, to run the government. Cabinet is the  political executive’s supreme body responsible for overall governance and is also accountable for it. Their performance is directly proportional to the performance of the political party in power. It can turn out to be the scoreboard / marksheet of the incumbent cabinet / government and the party in power. Supposedly, that is critical in the election process to come back to power. They are the government. The combined ability of the members of the council of ministers is the total competence and the delivery potential of the government.

How are council of ministers constituted? Though it is very clear that performance can happen only with relevant expertise and capability to lead & deliver in the most complex of circumstances, the country has to offer. The most interesting facet of cabinet formation is the thought process that anyone can handle any ministership. Sometimes, by quirk of fate, somebody with the right competencies might land up in a commensurate ministry. What he is likely to deliver in the given ecosystem is the second and more important half of the coin. The most important facet of cabinet formation is that all caste, creed, race, religion, region, gender etc have to be represented synced with individual  political stature, following and capability to rock the boat. This is the running interpretation and practice of cabinet formation.

The cabinet in a logical corollary of the constitutional scheme of things, should be made for the complete term of the legislature or the party or coalition in power. At the worst, some changes can and should be made whenever required. There is no hard and fast rule regarding how many times reshuffles can happen. On the stability of the cabinet, some guarantee of performance / delivery is dependent. The issues are wide and varied; the battle of cabinet formation is worse than any electoral battle, chance of different groups to prove their strength, regional satraps ability to flex their muscles, the departments / ministries decide your political strength / fate and the high command’s role decides its strength. If it comes to a coalition government, God can only save you. The concept of cabinet formation takes a totally different spin, only pulls and pressures define such cabinets, all throughout their existence.

Even when there is lull in the best of the cabinets, intense politicking keeps going on, just in case one is able to find a chance. Political equations even within a party change and also there can be a change in the overall political climate or if they see impending disaster in the forthcoming elections. Or they might want to put the best foot forward. Sometimes to manage a majority by defections, ministerial berths are promised. Keeping such promises also keeps the cabinet boat rocking. Some facelift for the cabinet for a new agenda or for a new packaging always remain in the offing. Of late, a crazy innovation in cabinet formation is taking place. The complete cabinet resigns and a new one comes into being, in single party dispensations. MLAs being kept hostage and who matter or are likely to matter being promised ministerial berths are as much of truths as the constitution of India.


Sanjay Sahay

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