It is over two years now that the curtains nally fell on the Planning Commission. If one sits to pen down the Constitutional-administrative rights, and other stories
about the Planning Commission, it might end up in several volumes and might take a number of weeks to do so. e Planning Commission rst came into popular imagination
when ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made an o the cu remark about it in a public meeting. “Only 10 paisa reaches to the states of every one rupee released by the Planning Commission,” he had then quipped. Many common voters realised then for the rst time how a federal structure works and how the Planning Commission coordinates between the
states and the Centre. From formulating policies in the Five Year Plans to keeping a tab on how programs are being implemented, the Planning Commission was a great example of
the Nehruvian socialism model. It was like a temple; the realisation of a dream.
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the stone of development through the creation of the Planning Commission. It is because of this foresightedness that India is considered as a power to reckon with in global arena,” says Congress leader Manish Tiwari.However, not everything was hunky dory. As the Congress Party grew, so did the Planning Commission. It acquired enough power to project itself as a parallel power centre. e post of deputy chairperson
became a matter of prestige. It was oen given to errant party leaders who needed to be placated. But the quality was hardly compromised. It became so powerful that it was treated as a launch-pad for more powerful postings. Pranab Mukherjee, Madhu Dandwate, Dr Manmohan Singh, Jaswant Singh, K C Pant and Montek Singh Ahluwalia were some of the people who graced the said post. It was also a matter of demand and supply. As politics became less elite, people with pure political backgrounds started coming in droves, sidelining those who had training in sciences, and came from elite households. Naturally, politicians with such backgrounds tried to preserve the sanctity of the post of the deputy chairperson by making it a bastion of those who had prior relevant training in pure economics or economic management. For a very long period, these deputy chairpersons
used to work as a bridge between economic management and pure politicking; but this started to change dramatically in the later days.
FROM FORMULATING POLICIES TO KEEPING A TAB ON THEIR IMPLEMENTATION, THE PLANNING COMMISSION WAS AN EXAMPLE OF THE NEHRUVIAN SOCIALISM MODEL
It reached a point where, during UPA II, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to spend considerable time trying to mediate between Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who were consistently trying to undercut each other’s positions. UPA II had three distinct power centres: 7 Race Course, 10 Janpath and Planning Commission. Rather than trying to balance the other two, Planning Commission was busy promoting pet projects of the Congress. Its focus shied from coordinating between the states and the Centre to monitoring agship programs. Consequently, Chief Ministers from non-Congress ruled states started ignoring calls from Yojana Bhawan. ose heydays are behind. Gone are the days when Chief Ministers and their cavalcades used to be a regular feature outside Yojana Bhawan. Every Chief Minister had to come and seek audience from the deputy chairperson of the Planning ommission. Such was the rush that Delhi Police had trouble sorting out the tra
c in that area. ose days are gone. e building remains the same, but the crowd has melted.
It bears a desolate look as it awaits VIP guests, if at all. e abolishment of the Planning Commission was one of the rst major deci-sions of the Narendra Modi Government.
It was replaced by Niti Aayog. A cleaver play of words in both Hindi and English, Niti expands into National Institution for Transforming India, stands for policy in Hindi. It was established through a proposal passed through a Cabinet meeting, a tradition that has been followed in the past too. Modi had called the Planning Commission a remnant of the past and a threat to the federal structure. Congress-ruled states opposed the move and said that it was a below-the-belt step to erase the tradition of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the tradition of Nehruvian socialism.
ey also alleged that it was a cunning way of concentrating all the power to the PMO. Ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singhsaid that by abolishing the Planning Commission,the country has lost its developmental trajectory. However, Arun Maira, who was a member of the Planning Commission, maintainsthat the Planning Commission lost its relevance aer the liberalisation of 1991. At least, in its current last form without any changes.
Similar sentiments were expressedby another ex-member Sompal Shashtri. Many of the detractors consider that the Planning Commission was reduced to the whims of individuals rather than acting as an institution.
When Prime Minister Modi abolished the body and brought in Niti Aayog, one of his primary reasons was the adverse effect that the Planning Commission had on the Centre-state relationship. He listed some of the problems that he had to face as a Chief Minister. State governments had to come to the Planning Commission to get their budgets approved,
which was to be used under planned expenditure. Any program needed to get the nod of approval from the body, which also kept a vigil on the project. ere was hardly
any decision that a ministry could take independently. Every decision needed to have approval from the Planning Commission. Although this sounds more cumbersome than it really was, the approvals were not very hard to get. But at times, the Commission used to withhold the approval on technical reasons. It received considerable ak for being
inconsiderate. Needless to say, Narendra Modi’s relationship with the Planning Commission was at its lowest during the ten years of UPA rule.