An RTI application shows most Cabinet ministers skipped several crucial meetings in the past four years
Since coming to power in 2004, the Prime Minister has convened 217 Cabinet meetings till June-end this year—about one meeting per week—to deliberate over 1,800 proposals. But no Cabinet minister except Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj attended more than 90 per cent of the meetings.
Senior Cabinet ministers such as Textiles Minister Shankersinh Vaghela, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Railways Minister Lalu Prasad attended less than half of all Cabinet meetings in the last four years.
Vaghela, who attended about 35 per cent of the meetings, tops the list of absentees, followed by Nath and Lalu. Only 13 ministers attended more than 70 per cent of the meetings. The Indian Express used the Right to Information to obtain information regarding absenteeism from the Cabinet secretariat.
Many ministers were also absent from meetings where a proposal moved by their ministry was on the agenda. Barring Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Water Resources Minister Saif-ud-din Soz, every other Cabinet minister was absent from a meeting at least once despite a proposal from his or her ministry being listed on the day’s agenda.
Topping the list in this category is HRD Minister Arjun Singh, who was absent on 22 occasions when a matter moved by his ministry was to be discussed, followed by Lalu (21 meetings), Finance Minister P. Chidambaram (19) and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee (19). Ten of Mukherjee’s 19 absences, however, were recorded after he took over the External Affairs portfolio, which requires frequent overseas travel, in 2006