In the time of polls, governance in New Delhi has almost come to a halt. While most Secretaries of key ministries and departments are busy preparing their agenda for the new government — as required by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth — others are simply passing on all key financial and administrative decisions to the Election Commission.
So much so that last week, the EC wrote to the Cabinet Secretariat informing that “routine matters’’, even if related to mid-level postings and appointments, could be decided without being referred to the poll panel. Since March 5, when the code of conduct came into force, the EC has received a pile of requests from ministries on a daily basis.
Evidence of the paralysis in decision-making was first noticed on Raisina Hill with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself rarely attending his office in South Block. PMO officials said while Singh has not worked out of his South Block office since the end of the Parliament session, he paid a brief visit there last week.
Activity in the PMO has also slowed down as ministries are routing fewer files. Officials said that from the earlier average of around 300 files being routed to the PM for approvals and signature every month, the number is now down to 100-150 files.
At the PM’s Race Course Road residence too, there is clear indication of an imminent change of guard. Singh is known to have spent almost two hours at the Holi dinner party he hosted for PMO staff and their families. Currently, his staff at 7 RCR are busy drawing up an inventory of all furniture, paintings, objects d’art and books displayed there, which will be handed over to members of the new prime ministerial staff.
A separate inventory is being prepared for the hundreds of gifts and mementos Singh received during his 10-year stint. These will be gifted to schools and charitable institutions, since it was felt that they would be carefully cataloged and displayed in these institutions. Meanwhile, the CPWD is drawing up plans for purchase and refurbishment of furniture within the stipulated budget of Rs 2.5 lakh for Singh’s new residence at 3 Motilal Nehru Place, earlier occupied by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Elsewhere in Delhi’s ministerial corridors, caution in decision-making and signing on files seems to be the buzzword. In Shastri Bhawan, for instance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting even sought the EC’s permission for its Secretary to attend a FICCI programme and its minister Manish Tewari to attend the National Community Radio Sammelan. While the EC gave its nod to the Secretary, it denied permission to Tewari.
Other important policy initiatives such as phase 3 continued…