- Introduction on bureaucratic politicization.
- Why is the need for harmony in politico-bureaucratic interface ?
- Conclusion with way forward.
Separation of politics and administration, although acknowledged as ideal, is not always recognisable in administrative practice. Public administration is focussed on creating a public order that guarantees stability & continuity of the state by conflict resolution through legally established means. However, with the growing clout of politicians over bureaucrats leading to the phenomenon called ‘Politicization of Bureaucracy’, a clear distribution of responsibilities and compliance with established rules are considered as positive values.
Need for harmony b/w Politics & Administration: Democratic politics, requiring original legitimacy, cannot be developed without a professional administration. A bureaucracy can lose its legitimacy too if not directed by democratic politics. So, there is a need to establish cooperative working mechanisms between these two realities. Interaction between these two is constantly under strain, as functional boundaries are often blurred between them.
In this context, it must be recognised that politics & administration is related to, but not necessarily identical with, the boundary between civil servants and politicians. Political activity is not coterminous with party politics. Politics is the process of involving resource mobilization of various kinds to achieve a set of policy goals, suited to public interests & informed by public consensus. Policy describes political goals in operational terms. It is a fact that decision on policy goals is taken by politicians, and not bureaucrats. However, Ministers rely on professional bureaucrats, due to complexities, for policy formulation. When any problem is identified, Ministers give general guidelines, upon which Civil servants tender advices & policy options. Then, Ministers decide which policy option is to be adopted, requiring the civil servants to implement them with necessary administrative modifications.
Thus, policy making & administration are two different but convergent processes, requiring both political & administrative executives to work hand-in-gloves. Problem arises when politicians are not willing to confine themselves to the role of ‘strategic steering heads’ and senior bureaucrats grow their political powers instead of organisational or policy entrepreneurship skills.
This calls for a professional, democratic public service striving towards structural & functional type changes – structural changes aim at building democratic institutions ruled by law; while functional changes aim to consolidate acceptable professional and ethical behaviour in public life, enabling efficient public management methods. Both structural & functional aspects are intertwined strengthening public legitimacy of the state. A balanced line of demarcation, backed by law, between the political & professional levels is a sine-qua-non in achieving constructive goals. This, in turn requires delegation of administrative decision making to lower levels in hierarchy. The capabilities of public servants must be ensured by a system of management based on merit principles. It can be enhanced by improving skills, organisational specialization and strengthening inter and intra-ministerial cooperation. The legitimacy of democratic politics will be jeopardised if it fails to produce policy outcomes.