There are seven important functions of the Prime Minister of India these are : 1. Formation of Ministry, 2. Distribution of Portfolios, 3. Chairman of the Cabinet Committee, 4. Chief Co-ordinator of Policies, 5. Sole Adviser to the President, 6. Leader of the Nation, 7. Position of the Prime Minister.
(1) Formation of the Ministry :
The Prime Minister forms the Ministry. With the appointment of the Prime Minister, the essential task of the President is over, for it is left to the Prime Minister to select his Ministers and present a list to the President. The President has no other alternative but to appoint the Ministers as recommended by the Prime Minister.
It is correctly said that the Prime Minister “is central to its (Ministry’s) formation, central to its life and central to its death”. The Prime Minister has the privilege to select his Cabinet colleagues. If the Prime Minister resigns, it means the resignation of the whole Ministry. When the Prime Minister dies, the Council of Ministers will automatically cease to exist. The Prime Minister may remove the members of Council of Ministers at any time by demanding the Ministers’ resignation or getting them dismissed, by the President.
(2) Distribution of Portfolios:
Distribution of portfolios is another important task of the Prime Minister. He has a free hand in assigning various departments to his colleagues. It is for him to determine the size of the Cabinet and the Ministers to be included in it. He may even select ministers outside the rank if he feels that a person is fit for a job. While distributing portfolios he is to look that important members of the party do get important portfolios. In a federal State like India be is to see that Ministers are selected from all parts of the country.
Further, there might be some aspirants for a few important portfolios like Home, Defence or Finance. He has to bring amity and satisfy all in distributing the portfolios. His work is indeed a difficult one. As Lowell points out. “His work is like that of constructing a figure out of blocks which are too numerous for the purpose and which are not of shapes fit perfectly together”.
(3) Chairman of the Cabinet Committee:
The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee. He convenes and presides over all the meetings of the Cabinet. He is to fix the agenda of such meetings. The Ministers are individually responsible to him for the good administration of their respective departments. The Prime Minister may warn advice or encourage them in discharge of their functions. He is the head of the Council of Ministers. He acts as the Chairman of various standing and ad-hoc Committees of the Cabinet.
(4) Chief Co-ordinator of Policies:
The Prime Minister is the chief co-ordinator of the policies of several Departments. In case of conflicts between two departments, he acts as the mediator. He irons out quarrels among various Ministers and departments. He keeps an eye on the working of all Departments of the Government of India. He can ask for any file from any Ministry for his perusal.
In case of appointment of Governors and other high federal officers, the voice of the Prime Minister counts and not that of the other Ministers. He is always vigilant regarding the working of the important departments like the Finance, the Foreign Affairs and Home. He also keeps close touch with foreign ambassadors and represents the Union Government at the Conferences of Heads of Foreign Governments.
(5) Sole Adviser to the President:
The Prime Minister is the sole adviser to the President. The right to advice for dissolution of the Lok Sabha rests with Prime Minister. The President is expected to accept the advice of the Prime Minister and not that of other Ministers.
The Prime Minister is the only channel of communication between the President and the Cabinet. He informs the President all the decisions taken in the Cabinet. If the President does not accept the advice of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister may resign. The resignation of the Prime minister will create difficulty for the President to find out an alternative Ministry. As long as the Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of the majority members of the Lok Sabha it is difficult for the President to dismiss him.
(6) Leader of the Nation:
The Prime Minister is the leader of the nation. He is the chief spokesman of the Governmental policies in the Parliament. All important policy announcements are made by him in the Parliament. He is the leader of the majority party and as such he usually becomes the leader of the House.
The British convention is that the Prime Minister should belong to the House of Commons. Such a convention is expected to develop in India whereby the Prime Minister will belong to the Lok Sabha which is the popular House in India. Personality and prestige of the Prime Minister helps the party to get more votes during the time of election. The General Election is in reality the election of the Prime Minister. In India, the choice of the First Prime Minister fell on Jawaharlal Nehru who brought absolute majority to his party in the Centre and the States in the First General Elections of India.
(7) Position of the Prime Minister:
The Constitution of India, as already pointed out, does not describe the office of the Prime Minister in detail. It is, therefore, difficult to State what is the exact position of the Prime Minister. The general accepted theory is that the Prime Minister is just like “primus inter pares” or “first among equals”. This is the phrase, which is used to describe the office of the Prime Minister ship in a parliamentary system.
The Prime Minister is the captain of the Cabinet team. Just like a game cannot be played by the captain alone, the game of politics likewise cannot be played by the Prime Minister alone. He is to take the support of his Cabinet colleagues and thus among the Cabinet colleagues the Prime Minister is first among equals.
However, this phrase is too modest to describe a great office of a parliamentary system. To quote Ramsay Muir, a leading constitutional authority of England, “the phrase primus inter-pares is nonsense as applied to a potentate who appoints and can dismiss his colleagues. He (Prime Minister) is in fact, though not in law, the working head of the State, endowed with such a plenitude of power as no other constitutional ruler possesses, not even the President of the United States”.
Laski describes the office of the Prime Minister as “‘the pivot of the whole system of Government”.
William Harcourt calls him as “Inter stella Lunar Minores” or ‘A Moon among lesser Stars”. Jennings, another notable authority of the British Constitution, describes Prime Minister as “Sun around which other planets revolve”.
Regarding the office of the Prime Minister, it is said “nowhere in the wide world does so great a substance cast so small a shadow”. Thus, the office of the Prime Minister is an important one in a parliamentary system of Government. The Prime Minister of India possesses more or less same powers as claimed by his British counterpart.
K. T. Shah observed in the Constituent Assembly, “This Constitution concentrates so much power and influence in the hands of the Prime Minister that there is every danger to apprehend that the Prime Minister may become a dictator if he chooses to do so”. N. V. Gadgil, former Governor of Punjab, writes, “The Prime Minister is invested with formidable power and influence and unless he be a genuine democrat by nature he is very likely to become a dictator”. Pandit Nehru describes this office as “the linch-pin” of the Government.
In this context, Dr. Ambedkar stated in the Constituent Assembly, “The Prime Minister is really the keystone of the arch of the Cabinet and unless and until we create that office and endow that office with statutory authority to nominate any dismiss Ministers there can be no collective responsibility”.
Thus, the Prime Minister is a national leader and he is the defacto ruler of the nation. The pertinent question is can the President flout the advice of the Prime Minister? There is a little scope to do so. When the President thinks of disregarding the advice of the Prime Minister, he should not overlook the following factor.
a) The Prime Minister is the leader of the Majority Party:
b) He commands confidence of the Legislature:
c) His removal may create difficulty for the President.
d) The President is now bound to act according to the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
From the above-mentioned reasons, it is expected that the President is ordinarily bound by the advice of the Prime Minister. The Office of the Prime Minister is no doubt a great office of authority and dignity.
However, his authority is a matter of influence in the context of his personality. Defined powers legally conferred; do not always determine the position of an office. The personality of the incumbent is more important. If the Prime Minister is dynamic, efficient, and strong and possesses exceptional qualities, it is difficult for his colleagues to oppose him. He can exercise immense power by virtue of his personality.
When asked what are the qualities required for a good Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger, declared, “eloquence first, then knowledge, thirdly toil and lastly patience”. These are the good qualities of an efficient Prime Minister. According to Laski,” discretion, dexterity power to rule men” is the qualities needed for an efficient Prime Minister.
Thus, we may conclude, the office of the Prime Minister is “necessarily what the holder chooses to make it”. It is no doubt the most important office in the parliamentary form of government. That is why critics in recent times have described this form of government as the “Prime Ministerial form” of Government.