Monday, May 18, 2009
A BUREAUCRAT may not have any option to choose his political master, but a right minister always motivates his babus and increases their productivity manifold. If the feedback that I have managed to receive from several top bureaucrats in Delhi is any indication, bureaucrats by and large don’t enjoy working under current home minister P Chidambaram as much as they would have been under say railway minister Lalu Prasad or commerce minister Kamal Nath. As Dr Manmohan Singh is finalizing the list of his cabinet colleagues for the 15th Lok Sabha, BOI (Babus of India) has short-listed some probable ministers in the next cabinet and tried to figure out whether they are babus’ choice or not. Pranab Mukherjee Sure to get one of the key portfolios like external affairs or finance. Bureaucrats working under him don’t enjoy much but those who would build a good personal rapport with the most important man in the cabinet after the Prime Minister, may surely expect to reap benefits for the next five years if not more. P Chidambaram Unlikely to get back his pet portfolio – finance. Yet, he is likely to remain in the North Block as the country’s home minister. He is not at all popular among his own bureaucrats as he likes to go into the nitty-gritty of every issue. Babus in his ministry lose their independence, and at times need to bear with his shouting. Montek Singh Ahluwalia Current deputy chairman of Planning Commission and a close confidante of Dr Manmohan Singh may get the finance portfolio during this difficult time of the global economic meltdown. I have interacted with him a number of times during the last five years, and have witnessed how efficiently he uses his key men. He is popular among bureaucrats as he always respects their views but never allows them to formulate any policy against the broad theme that he has okayed first. Kamal Nath He is the darling of India Inc who wants him to be the finance minister this time. Yet, he is unlikely to be in the North Block though he has a chance to be the country’s next external affairs minister if Pranab Mukherjee is made the finance minister. He always makes good personal rapport with bureaucrats and is extremely popular among them. Disclaimer: This analysis is based on my own assessment and on the feedback that I have received from bureaucrats and politicians working closely with them.