For the first time ever for any incoming government, the secretaries of key departments will make detailed presentations to new Prime Minister Narendra Modi from May 27 on the agenda they want to pursue.
No Indian prime minister has ever held such a meeting with secretaries before being briefed by the respective ministers and that too within 24 hours of moving in. But breaking this convention, Modi is expected to learn first-hand from all the top officials the challenges this government faces from the morning after he and his Cabinet is sworn in.
Each departmental secretary has also been advised that the meetings could well stretch late into the evenings. The format will be for each secretary to present a short set of slides — between 5 and 10 — on the critical issues that need to be addressed in their respective sectors in front of the prime minister. They will then take questions from him.
Significantly, Modi is not expected to have any aide with him from the Prime Minister’s Office except for those meant to take notes at the meetings. This is in tune with the way he has handled presentations made by departmental secretaries in the Gujarat government.
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“We have been told there is no time line for these meetings to end. The new PM is known to ask for minute details and so we are gearing up accordingly,” an official said.
Carrying of references or files was considered a big no-no in the Gujarat capital Gandhinagar for such meetings and most secretaries are planning to emulate this style. One of them confirmed to The Indian Express that officers have made calls to their counterparts in the state to get abreast of the way Modi has usually handled such meetings.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in his first term asked for written inputs from each secretary on their plans and then sent out a detailed action agenda for them to follow up on. His first meeting with the senior bureaucrats happened only in October 2004, five months after he took over.
Most key economic and strategic ministries were told to be ready with their slides by the cabinet secretary when they met him earlier this week. While the order in which each of them will be called in has not been decided as yet, all the officers are expected to be present at the PMO for when they might be called in.
According to sources, the meetings also provide a chance for the prime minister to assess the performance of each secretary.