In a few months from now India would have had two successive BJP governments. This has never happened before. One feature has not been noticed about it: it’s heterogeneity. Both Modi governments have had two clearly separated compartments: politicians and professionals.
This looks trivial but homogeneous groups tend to have better intra-group communication than heterogeneous ones. This is well established, regardless of what sort of group we are talking about.
Political parties are also a group but they tend to be very much more heterogeneous than other social or professional groups. The BJP, despite its single-cause image, is no exception.
But under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah it’s run into a problem: this heterogeneity has affected its government. You might argue that this is true of all governments but in the BJP the nature of this heterogeneity is substantially different and more acute.
To put it in just one sentence, ministers who are professionals — Jaishankar, Sitharaman, Puri, Vaishnaw, etc — are not politicians and, therefore, their communication is very poor with those who are. They are cordial and helpful but have no understanding of each other.
That’s not the only thing. They are also in a subordinate position vis-a-vis their political counterparts. Paradoxically, the professionals have the more important portfolios in the sense that these are the ministries that matter more to the Prime Minister.
If you recall, at one point, even the Defence Ministry was entrusted to Sitharaman because the Prime Minister has full faith in her integrity. Ditto Puri, Jaishankar, Vaishnaw etc.
This peculiarity has made the PMO the clearing house of all government policy, a role that was played by the Planning Commission under Montek Singh Ahluwalia. He was his prime minister’s go-to man. That’s fine except that in the earlier governments ministerial authority and autonomy were far greater. In this one the political appointees hardly ever talk to the non-political ones because both groups both look down on the other group.