Narendra Modi has never been a fan of India’s almighty Planning Commission. It functions like the Soviet-styled command and control body since the country’s independence in 1947. Gujarat’s former Chief Minister was fed up with the Commission’s “high-handedness and hobbling states with one-size-fits-all policies.” Arun Shourie, an influential BJP member, calls the Planning Commission a “parking lot” for political cronies and unwanted bureaucrats. And it’s show time for Mr. Modi.
Now, as prime minister of the country, he looks set to clip the central agency’s wings, or perhaps abandon it altogether. It is the starkest symbol yet of Modi’s determination to junk the Fabian socialist-leaning economic policies set in train by the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
In a signal that the end could be nigh for what has remained a sacred cow of policy making despite many years of market-oriented economic reforms that began in the 1990s, a government-backed report last week suggested dismantling the Planning Commission and replacing it with a think tank.
“Since the Planning Commission has defied attempts to reform it to bring it in line with the needs of a modern economy and the trend of empowering the states, it is proposed that the Planning Commission be abolished,” the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) said in a report.
A month into his premiership, Modi has already sidelined the body whose tome-like five-year plans are always laboriously crafted but rarely adhered to. He has left the post of executive head of the commission vacant, and he has taken away its authority to determine the central government’s capital expenditure, passing that to the finance ministry.
And, for the first time, the Commission has been excluded from discussions to frame the national budget, which is due to be presented on July 10.