Some advisors can make a big difference to the functioning of a government. Those with specialized knowledge and skills can be a great help in the making of policies and in their implementation. It is not quite clear, though, how the seven former Union ministers belonging to the Trinamul Congress will help the West Bengal government in their new roles as advisors to seven ministries. It is doubtful if they acquired any special skills, during their tenure as Union ministers, which they now can use in order to advise the ministers in the Bengal government. If anything, all of them, except Mukul Roy, former railways minister, complained about not having much to do during their brief stints as Union ministers of state. It is thus not difficult to see why Mamata Banerjee chose them as advisors to seven of her cabinet colleagues. Clearly, the move is meant to be some sort of rehabilitation for her lieutenants, who found themselves out of power owing to the TMC’s exit from the United Progressive Alliance government. This is hardly the best reason for appointing anyone as advisor to a government or its ministers.
Such appointments can only spread confusions at all levels of a government. The seven ministers who are supposed to be guided by their new advisors may not know what to do with the men or their advice. The seven ministers who now have the advisors foisted on them are senior politicians holding charge of some of the most important portfolios. Does the appointment of the advisors suggest that these ministers are not good enough at their jobs? The confusion can only get worse if the ministers and the advisors differ on a policy or a project. The ministers have constitutional and legal obligations and responsibilities. The advisors are free from these but can wield powers arbitrarily given to them by the chief minister. Even the bureaucracy, which is supposed to work in tandem with the ministers, may not quite know how to deal with the advisors. All this could harm, rather than help, the functioning of the government. Yet, there is a good case for Ms Banerjee to appoint some advisors to herself. The prime minister and the Union finance minister have advisors to help them frame policies and take important decisions. Ms Banerjee could benefit from some professional advisors for herself or her government. But, the advisors she has chosen cannot improve governance in Bengal.