Notwithstanding the 24 groups of ministers that he was spearheading, Pranab Mukherjee?s resignation from the Union Cabinet is unlikely to hold up the government?s broader legislative agenda. The reason being there were just three ministerial panels headed by the former finance minister that, in their specific mandate, were looking at the formulation of new laws or amendments to existing ones.
Of the three, the GoM for Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2000 was asked to make specific recommendations on all policy measures pertaining to exploration and mining of coal. Another ministerial group headed by the former finance minster was looking into environmental and developmental issues relating to coal mining and other developmental projects, including possible changes in the existing statutes, rules and regulations. The third was a group of ministers tasked with formulating a law relating to honour killing.
On paper, Pranab babu?s indispensability seemed proven without doubt given his packed GoM and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) itinerary, and considering that he headed 24 of the 37 functional ministerial panels active currently. Of these, he was at the helm of all the 12 eGoMs. But at least half a dozen were largely inactive, without much to show in terms of results over the last couple of years. These include a GoM mandated with finding an appropriate location for a National War Memorial that was set up in August 2009. The panel failed to come up with a location for the proposed memorial in close to three years. The GoM on honour killing, formed in July 2010, is yet another example where nothing tangible in terms of results has come through.
Apart from these, another half-a-dozen GoMs that Mukherjee chaired include those where key recommendations had either been given and the Cabinet was to take a view or the recommendations were in various stages of implementation. Of the total GoMs, there were only about a dozen where there was regular action, an official involved in the exercise said.
In the GoM sweepstakes, home minister P Chidambaram was a distant second to the FM, heading 10 GoMs, including the latest one on the coal regulator, followed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
With Mukherjee?s exit from the Cabinet, there are indications that the responsibility of heading GoMs and EGoMs is to be redistributed among senior cabinet ministers, with Chidambaram and Pawar likely to be loaded with greater responsibilities now. While the GoM decisions needs ratification by the Union cabinet, the EGoM is empowered to take a final call on its agenda.