. The cabinet, a small body consisting of the prime minister as its head and some 15 to 20 most important ministers, is the highest decision-making body in the formal sense. However, a still smaller body called the ‘inner Cabinet’ or ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ has become the real centre of power. This informal body consists of the Prime Minister and two to four influential colleagues in whom he has faith and with whom he can discuss every problem. It advises the prime minister on important political and administrative issues and assists him in making crucial decisions. It is composed of not only cabinet ministers but also outsiders like friends and family members of the prime minister.
Every prime minister in India has had his ‘Inner Cabinet’—a circle within a circle. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Inner Cabinet’ consisted of Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, and Kidwai. Lal Bahadur Shastri relied upon YB Chavan, Swaran Singh, and GL Nanda. During the era of Indira Gandhi, the ‘Inner Cabinet’ which came to be called the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ was particularly powerful and consisted of persons like YB Chavan, Uma Shanker Dixit, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Dr Karan Singh and others. AB Vajpayee’s ‘inner cabinet’ consisted of LK Advani, George Fernandes, MM Joshi, Pramod Mahajan, and so on.
The prime ministers have resorted to the device of ‘inner cabinet’ (extra-constitutional body) due to its merits, namely:
- It being a small unit, is much more efficient decision-making body than a large cabinet.
- It can meet more often and deal with business much more expeditiously than the large cabinet.
- It helps the Prime Minister in maintaining secrecy in making decisions on important political issues.
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