The Prime Minister is the head of government in India. As the most powerful political leader in the country, the Prime Minister leads the executive branch of the central government and oversees the operation of all ministries. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is the central decision-making body of the Indian government, providing direction and supervision of policy initiatives. As head of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister allocates portfolios and determines the rank of ministers. 1947 was the year when India became independent and created the post of Prime Minister. The President appoints the Prime Minister based on the recommendation of the leader of the majority party or coalition in the Lok Sabha the lower house of parliament. The Prime Minister shall then have to show his majority through a confidence vote in the Lok Sabha. The Prime Minister is the chief executive who is responsible for carrying out the policies and laws passed by the legislature. The Prime Minister advises the President on who should be appointed to some of the most important offices and on matters relating to policy. As the head of the country, the Prime Minister serves as India’s representative on the international level and develops diplomatic ties with other nations worldwide.
Eligibility Criteria to become Prime Minister of India
For the Prime Minister of India, a person must meet specific eligibility conditions based on the constitution. The foremost necessity is that the Prime Minister must belong to either the Lok Sabha, which is the lower house of parliament, or the Rajya Sabha, which is the upper house of parliament. This guarantees that the Prime Minister receives the direct or indirect backing of the majority of parliamentary members. The constitution does not set forth any other requirements of eligibility for the Prime Minister. However, by default, the Prime Minister is the head of the ruling majority party or coalition in the Lok Sabha. The person who is most likely to command the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha is appointed the Prime Minister by the President. The Prime Minister usually refers to the leader of the ruling party who has previously served in the key portfolios. It is not a legal requirement, however.
So in summary, the eligibility criteria to become the Prime Minister of India are:
- Must be a current member of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha
- Must be able to prove majority support in the Lok Sabha
- Is usually the accepted leader of the ruling party/coalition
Though not a formal requirement, Prime Ministers have historically been experienced politicians and former cabinet ministers before being appointed to the office. The constitution leaves the appointment open-ended to allow the President to appoint whoever is most likely to command the confidence of the House.
Appointment Process Of Prime Minister of India
- The Prime Minister of India is appointed by the President of India. The President must appoint a candidate who has the confidence of the Lok Sabha or the majority in the lower house of parliament.
- The President appoints the Prime Minister based on which party or coalition holds a majority in the Lok Sabha. By convention, the President invites the leader of the majority party or coalition after a general election to form the government and become Prime Minister.
- The appointed Prime Minister then selects the other ministers of the Council of Ministers and presents the list to the President. The President administers the oath of office to the Prime Minister and other ministers, formally appointing them. While the Prime Minister is officially appointed by the President, it is based on the majority held in the Lok Sabha. The elected leader of the majority party or coalition is invited by the convention to become Prime Minister
Power and Function of Prime Minister
There are some important Power and Functions of the Prime Minister of India
1.Formation of the Council of Ministers- The Prime Minister has the primary responsibility for forming the Council of Ministers. As head of the majority party/coalition in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister selects ministers to fill cabinet positions.
The process involves careful consideration of various criteria:
– Representation – The Council aims to represent a diverse coalition of regions, religions, castes, genders, etc.
– Competence – Ministers are appointed based on relevant skills, experience and expertise.
– Loyalty – Ministers with strong loyalty to the party and PM are preferred.
– Patronage – Loyal supporters of party leadership during the election are rewarded with ministerial berths.
The size and composition of the Council can vary based on political factors. Typically it consists of around 60-70 ministers with the following structure:
– Cabinet Ministers – Senior ministers in charge of major ministries. Part of the Cabinet which is the highest decision-making body.
– Ministers of State (MoS) – Junior ministers who assist Cabinet ministers.
– MoS with Independent Charge – MoS was given independent responsibility of smaller ministries.
The Prime Minister has the discretion to shape the Council of Ministers to suit political and governance priorities.
2.Allocation of Portfolios- The Prime Minister plays a crucial role in allocating portfolios to cabinet ministers. As the head of the council of ministers, the PM has the power to distribute portfolios at his/her discretion.
Several factors guide the PM’s decision for portfolio allocation:
– The minister’s expertise and experience in a particular policy area
– Maintaining regional, caste, and community representation in the cabinet
– Rewarding senior party members with key portfolios
– Allocating portfolios as per coalition agreements in case of a coalition government
The Prime Minister may choose to keep certain key portfolios like Home, Finance, and External Affairs with himself/herself or trusted senior colleagues. Portfolios are allocated keeping in mind the government’s policy priorities and agenda for the term. Changes in portfolio allocation may happen through periodic cabinet reshuffles or expansion. The PM may decide to reallocate portfolios to bring in fresh thinking, cater to regional aspirations, or unsettle entrenched power centers. Drastic changes in portfolios are rare, but minor reallocations based on a minister’s performance or political considerations are common. The Prime Minister has the final discretion on changes to portfolio allocation based on the overall interests of the government and the nation.
3.Reshuffling of Portfolios- The Prime Minister has the power to reshuffle the portfolios of ministers in the Council of Ministers as and when required. There are several reasons why the Prime Minister may decide to reshuffle portfolios:
– To give exposure to ministers in different ministries for their development
– To utilize the specialized skills and experience of ministers
– As a disciplinary measure if a minister underperforms in their role
– To redistribute work based on shifting priorities and bring new energy to departments
– To accommodate new ministerial entrants and remove non-performers
The frequency of reshuffles depends entirely on the Prime Minister. Some PMs like routine minor changes while others prefer stability and make infrequent major reshuffles. There is no fixed schedule. Reshuffles are often politically motivated to balance representation, power dynamics within the party and government, and caste/regional calculations. They may be made to address public perceptions or rehabilitate a minister’s reputation. Frequent random reshuffles can negatively impact governance continuity, long-term vision, and the ability to see policies through. Radical reshuffles disrupt established teams and working relationships. However, timely reshuffles to address incompetence or Scams are seen as signs of strong leadership. Overall, the impact depends on the purpose and quality of the changes made.
4. Chairman of the Cabinet- The Prime Minister serves as the chairman of the Council of Ministers and Cabinet of India. As chairman, the Prime Minister plays a crucial role in conducting cabinet meetings, setting the cabinet agenda, and managing the workflow of the cabinet. The Prime Minister chairs all cabinet meetings and facilitates decision-making within the cabinet. He decides the schedule and frequency of cabinet meetings based on the government’s legislative agenda and priorities. The Prime Minister works closely with the Cabinet Secretary to finalize the agenda for cabinet meetings focusing on the most important policy issues and initiatives that require cabinet approval. As chairman, the Prime Minister moderates discussions during cabinet meetings. He summarizes the arguments and guides the ministers towards a consensus on key decisions. The Prime Minister too can put off difficult issues over which there is no agreement within the cabinet. Upon completion of the meeting, the cabinet’s decisions are recorded and passed on to the relevant ministries through the Cabinet Secretariat. The Prime Minister should play his role as chairman of the parliamentary house to effectively coordinate between the different ministers to build consensus on the policy direction of the government. It allows the cabinet to work as an integrated decision-making body led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister uses his position as chairperson to bring unity in the priorities of various ministries for the broader national program of the government
5. Chief Link between President and Cabinet- The Prime Minister is the main link between the President and the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister has the responsibility to:
- Recommend the President on issues affecting the nation and abroad. As the leader of the government, the Prime Minister can best advise the President on policy issues and operations of government.
- Notify the President of every decision made by the cabinet. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to inform the President of the major deliberations and policy decisions made by the ministers after each cabinet session. This helps the President to receive regular reports on how the government is doing.
The connection between the President and the Prime Minister is essential for the efficient operation of the government and for ensuring consistency in policies at the top echelons. By becoming the essential connection point between the Head of State and the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister improves coordination and understanding between the two branches.
6.Leader of the Parliament- Since the Prime Minister is mostly the leader of the majority party in parliament, they acts as the main leader and representative of the party in parliament. The role of the Prime Minister is significant in terms of coordinating the government’s legislative agenda and its general parliamentary strategy.
Some key responsibilities as the leader of the parliament include:
- Preserving the government’s legislative agenda and ensuring that important bills go through. This includes working with the cabinet, party members, and coalition partners to form a single position.
- As the main representative between the government and opposition parties in parliament. This is achieved through negotiations and discussions to establish consensus on legislation.
- Leading the governmental floor strategy and activities during parliamentary sessions. The Prime Minister determines when to bring or discuss bills, address the issues raised by the opposition, or initiate other strategic moves.
- Appointing the Chief Whip who should enable party discipline and ensure members vote according to the party line on any given legislation.
- Directing the government’s floor strategy and activities during parliamentary sessions. The Prime Minister decides when to introduce or debate bills, respond to issues raised by the opposition, and take other tactical steps.
- Appointing the Chief Whip who is responsible for enforcing party discipline and ensuring members vote with the party line on legislation.
- Orchestrating the overall legislative agenda across sessions and terms. The Prime Minister charts the broader strategy for the timing and sequencing of bills.
- Addressing parliament directly during key debates or on agenda-setting occasions like the opening of a new session. Their speeches help communicate the government’s priorities.
- Building public and political support for the government’s agenda. The Prime Minister leverages parliament as a platform to make the government’s case and shape narratives.
- Responding to developments like no-confidence motions. As the parliamentary leader, the Prime Minister is at the forefront of these situations.
So, the Prime Minister plays a multifaceted role as leader of the party in parliament, coordinating government business, and devising parliamentary strategy to advance the ruling party’s interests. Their leadership in parliament is crucial to effectively navigating the law-making process.
7.Removal of Ministers- The Prime Minister has the power to remove ministers from the Council of Ministers. The main grounds on which a minister can be removed are:
- Losing the confidence of the Prime Minister
- Failing to meet performance benchmarks
- Losing support in Parliament
- Being involved in scandals, corruption, or other controversies
- Health reasons
The Prime Minister can remove ministers at his/her discretion. Constitutionally, the President has to be informed for the removal to take effect. But the President is bound to accept the Prime Minister’s advice in removing ministers.
The process for removal is as follows:
- The Prime Minister asks for the resignation of the minister. This is usually done through a resignation letter.
- If the minister refuses to resign voluntarily, the Prime Minister can dismiss the minister directly.
- The Prime Minister then advises the President to remove the minister from the Council of Ministers.
- The President accepts the Prime Minister’s advice and issues an official order removing the minister.
- The removal gets effected as soon as the President issues the order in a gazette.
The Prime Minister can appoint and remove ministers with full powers. The minister holds office at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. Thus, the Prime Minister can dismiss ministers just for any reason, while the President agrees with the advice This allows the Prime Minister to have great authority over the Council of Ministers.
8. Role of Leader of the Nation- As Prime Minister, He is the leader of the country and representative of India in the international sphere. The Prime Minister is called upon to deliver a national vision and plan that would appeal to all people. The Prime Minister represents India as its face when communicating with world leaders or addressing abroad crowds. They facilitate trade relations, security alliances, and other diplomatic objectives that benefit the country. The Prime Minister also influences public opinion and the national agenda through speeches made to the nation once in a while. Their voices are influential in drawing issues, setting objectives, and motivating people. On the occasion of Independence Day or a national tragedy, the Prime Minister’s words can touch the whole nation and unite and get to work. As a public figure of high prominence, the Prime Minister wields power over India’s image and connections internationally. Their leadership guides the country’s vision, values, and position in international affairs. The geopolitics and the future of the nation are affected by the statesmanship and the ability of the Prime Minister to convey Indian interests. Nationally, national development and reform is charted by the Prime Minister. They put the agenda for economic development, social welfare, and other national needs. As chief visionary and representative of the Indian people, the Prime Minister is essential in voicing the desires, values, and sense of self of the nation. Their special leadership helps India to move on.
9. Power of Patronage- The Prime Minister has significant powers of patronage that allow him to influence appointments and transfers within the government machinery. This includes the ability to appoint ministers, allocate portfolios, appoint the Attorney General, nominate members to the Rajya Sabha, appoint governors, ambassadors, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, etc. The Prime Minister’s powers of patronage give him considerable influence over senior bureaucratic and judicial appointments. He can transfer Secretaries, police officials, Foreign Service officers, etc. This allows the PM to ensure key positions are occupied by those favourable to him. The power of patronage has a profound impact on governance. It allows the PM to reward loyalists with coveted positions. He can appoint competent officials to key posts to improve administration. However, it also means that officials may be beholden to the PM rather than being neutral. Overuse of transfers as punishment can demotivate bureaucracy. Overall, the power of patronage is an important instrument for the PM to steer the government machinery. But it needs judicious use to avoid charges of nepotism, demoralizing services, and compromising the independence of institutions.
10.Role During Emergency- The Prime Minister’s powers expand dramatically during a declared state of emergency. Under Article 352 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister as head of the Union Cabinet can advise the President to proclaim an emergency if the security of India or any part thereof is threatened by war, external aggression, or armed rebellion. During an emergency, the federal structure of the Constitution can be significantly altered, giving expanded powers to the Prime Minister and Union government over states. The Prime Minister can rule by decree without legislative approval during an emergency. There have been controversies over the use of emergency powers in the past, such as during the 21-month emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975, which prompted accusations of authoritarian rule. There are some checks on the Prime Minister’s emergency powers. Under Article 352, an emergency proclamation must be approved by Parliament within one month. Emergency powers do not suspend fundamental rights under Articles 20 and 21, such as protection from criminal prosecution. Additionally, the Supreme Court can overrule an emergency proclamation if it finds the situation did not warrant such a declaration. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister wields tremendous authority during an emergency.
The Prime Minister’s post is the most important and strong constitutional post of India. The Prime Minister is the leader of the executive department and the wielder of huge constitutional powers and prerogatives. The Prime Minister plays a vital role in the governance and administration of the country’s affairs. He also gives direction leadership and vision towards the building of the nation. Their ability to control the cabinet, create consensus in the cabinet, and formulate policy matters a lot in a country. The Prime Minister, as the principal interface between the Council of Ministers and the President, reports all resolutions of the cabinet and provides the information and recommendations. He has a critical role to play in ensuring that the machinery of government does not go awry. The Prime Minister speaks for India in international forums and the status of the person gives clout to the country’s diplomatic and strategic interests outside. Their leadership enhances India’s image and relations with other countries. The Prime Minister represents the government in many ways, leading its major programs and restructuring initiatives. Their vision and leadership define the national agenda for progress and development. The Prime Minister’s communication also informs the public about major policies and issues. Certainly, the Prime Minister’s role is one of huge responsibility which requires outstanding leadership qualities and political sense. The appointment to this critical office is of paramount importance to the governance and future of the country.