The Prime Minister holds very important position in the country. He is the maker of the cabinet and is “central to its formation, central to its life and central to its death.”
He enjoys an undisputed supremacy over his colleagues. He is the man in the party who matters the most. The power wielded by him in the actual administration is so vast and his control and influence so pervading that the constitutional enumeration of his functions serves only to camouflage his actual status. He is the leader of the Parliament, leader of the cabinet and leader of the nation.
A phrase traditionally applied to the Prime Minister has been primus inter pares-first among equals. This, however, is over-simplification of his relations with other ministers. The Prime Minister in the Indian context is endowed with such a plenitude of powers as no other constitutional ruler on the world possesses, not even the President of the USA.
A Latin phrase which suits better is inter stellas luna minors. It means “a moon among the lesser stans”. Even this may not be correct estimate of the Prime Ministers position. He is the key-man in the Government. He has put the ministers where they are. He is the general coordinator of their activities.
He presides over the cabinet meetings, confers with individual ministers, encourages, adminishes and instructs them. He can ask any minister to resign. Thus, he is the key stone of the cabinet arch, for the entire structure of the cabinet is built upon his person and it collapses the moment he is shaken. In the Indian context, the Prime Minister is key stone, not only of the cabinet, but of the political system.
In fact, the position of the Prime Minister differs from person to person Nehru and Indira were the key stone of the political system while Shastri and Morarji were first among equals.
What about V.P. Singh? He inherited one of the most difficult jobs in the world; running India with a minority Government hanging in an impossible balance between the left and the BJP- It called for extra-ordinary political skills.
The way he was chosen Prime Minister by his party marked the beginning of the decline of his image that had hither to been his most powerful political weapon and source of public support. He was chosen Prime Minister through a last minute back room conspiracy with Devilal against Chandra Shekhar.
When Devilal threatened to resign on the Meham issue on March 11, 1990, Singh made a miserable compromise and allowed chautala to continue as Chief Minister on August 7, a day before Devilal’s rally in the capital, Singh exploded the Mandal bomb.
The dubious timing was such that even those who believed in the Tightness of the decision, cast aspersions on his motives – that it was a vote bank ploy intended to finish it Devilal.
In the days before the announcement of the Mandal reservations, the cabinet arguments that had most impressed him were about which caste factor would cancel out the other and how a consolidation of backward castes would make his seat unassailable for the next 20 years.
Power, not principle was his dominant motive, after 10 months of mastenly in activity on the Babri Masjid issue and only after L.K. Advani began his Rath Yatra did Singh respond to the need of attempting to solve the issue.
After negotiation with the BJP and VHP he sought emergency approval by the cabinet of a compromise package under which the disputed area in Ayodhya would be taken over by the centre and the BJP would agree to moderate its Ram agitation.
Singh even awoke the President at mid night for his signature and an ordinance was issued on October 20. But within 48 leaders, he withdrew it and decided to confront the BJP head on.
Glad stone once said of the British Prime Minister. “Nowhere in this wide world does so great a substance caste so small a shadow; nowhere is there a man who has so much power with so little to show for it in the way of formal title or prerogative.” This also holds true of the Indian Prime Minister.