Herald: It’s all very unclear
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It’s all very unclear

11 Mar 2018 08:09am IST

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11 Mar 2018 08:09am IST

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Since February 15, when Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was shifted to Mumbai for his medical treatment, there seems to uncertainty looming large over the functioning and future of this coalition government in the state. Now, that the chief minister is in the US for his medical treatment, many feel the state is being run in bits and pieces and the temporary exercise of appointing a Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) seems too vague as apart from sanctioning work, it has no decision-making powers. SURAJ NANDREKAR looks into the pros and cons of the temporary arrangement.

On March 5, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar wrote to the Governor of Goa, Mridula Sinha, informing her about his medical condition and conveying his decision to appoint a 3-member CAC.

Parrikar also informed the Governor about the powers the CAC would have.

However, if one reads between the lines more than the CAC, it is the bureaucrats who will play a crucial role in the whole episode until the Chief Minister is back again.

Even as Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has decided to hold cabinet meeting via video conferencing or by circulation during his current absence period, he has kept an alternative ready in case of any emergency wherein a minister appointed by him will chair the meeting. 

Before leaving for Mumbai on Monday, Parrikar informed about this arrangement and other developments like formation of a Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) and updates about his health in a written communiqué to Goa Governor Mridula Sinha.

"The meeting of council of ministers when held, shall be presided over by me through video conferencing or by circulation. If that is not feasible for any reason or as I may decide at a later point of time, the minister nominated by me, shall preside at a particular meeting of the council of ministers. I will separately instruct the Chief Secretary in such an exigent," he said in a three page letter to Sinha.  

He has also informed the three-minister team of Ramkrishna Dhavalikar, Vijai Sardesai and Francisco D'Souza would function as CAC. 

"Chief Secretary shall in consultation with Principal Secretary to CM prepare and fix the agenda to be placed before the said committee. The aforesaid committee may meet at least once every week, at such point time and place, and is empowered to decide unanimously amongst themselves on certain important financial year ending issues and/or other time bound/emergent matters with regard to which the administration may be required total a decision upon in my absence and/or I may be required to refer and place the same before this committee," he further said, adding that the committee before taking any decision on financial matters shall consult department of finance. 

While spelling out further details on the functioning of the committee and the financial power up to Rs 5 crore. 

The temporary arrangement connected with the Disposal of Business of Departments as well as that of Council is up to March 31, 2018. 

In this communication to the Governor, CM has also thanked her for visiting him and inquiring about his health.

CM’s portfolios

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar himself holds over 20 portfolios and needless to say, all these departments or portfolios will have a lot of backlog once the CM is back especially when the CM himself has said no one should interfere with his portfolios unless his approval.

“No Order shall be issued (apart from matters indicated at para (d) above) as regards any major or important matters concerning the portfolios of Finance, Home, Personnel and General Administration until the same are approved by me and the approval is duly communicated in the matter as I have directed the Chief Secretary,” CM has said in his letter to Governor.

He adds, “Important matters concerning the department under my charge shall be placed by the Chief Secretary before the aforesaid Committee and only after the Committee’s recommendation, the same shall be sent for my approval.”

This means that the most important portfolios of Finance, Home, Personnel and General Administration will be left unattended during the Chief Minister’s absence or will be run purely by the bureaucrats.

The group of three wise men, or G3 or officially christened as the Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) are actually without the three portfolios which are totally empowered – Home, Finance and Personnel.

However, the CAC comprising Ministers Ramkrishna Dhavalikar, Vijai Sardesai and Francis D’Souza is empowered to decide on certain important financial year-ending issues but this too comes with a rider. The committee here has been asked to consult the Department of Finance before taking any decision on financial matters.

This means apart from Rs 5 cr sanctioning powers, the CAC has no decision making powers like transfers in police, government and so also many issues related to GAD.

CS, Krishnamurthy to play key role

In the absence of the Chief Minister Parrikar two men – Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma and Principal Chief Secretary to CM P. Krishnamurthy will play a crucial role in day to day functioning of the Government and infact, could have a major say despite a Cabinet Advisory Committee being in place.

Chief Secretary and Krishnamurthy, who was air-dashed from Delhi last Monday for a meeting with Parrikar, have been given crucial role of informing the CM in US about the important events that happen in Goa on day to day basis.

Besides, they have also been told to contact the CM directly on phone or email for necessary advice or orders on any issues.

That could mean, the CS or PS can also turn down any decision taken by CAC.

Ministers get financial powers

The Cabinet ministers who were earlier given minimal financial powers up to (Rs 10 lakhs) have been given additional financial powers.

As per the Memorandum of Department of Finance, “each minister has been given financial powers of upto Rs 100 lakhs.”

Vijai, Francis react

Assuring to live up to the expectations of Parrikar’s new arrangement, Sardesai said they are a stop-gap arrangement and one should not expect all powers.

“We have a CM who is heading this government. He is indisposed and as such, he has handed over powers under Rules 16 and 17 of the Business, which is being complied with. Firstly, the intention is to see nothing impedes (in CM’s absence) the functioning of government particularly in view of the financial year end. We are a stop gap arrangement until March 31, 2018. Why should we suddenly expect all power be with us, however, in case of emergency we have the power to decide in consultation with Chief Secretary and/or PS to CM,” he told Herald.

Sardesai has extended full cooperation on behalf of the CAC claiming “we all should be supportive of CM.”

BJP’s Francis D’Souza also said by and large the CM will directly deal with the matter either telephonically or through video-conferencing. “The decision of the CM (to constitute CAC) is to put a collective leadership in place. He will anyway deal with many matters directly through video conferencing, telephone or other medium. Parrikar’s PS will clear routine files” 
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