The position and powers of the Chief Minister of a State are somewhat like that of the Prime Minister of India. He is the head of the State and the Council of Ministers.
Like the Prime Minister of India he can be described as the “key-stone of the cabinet arch”, “a moon among the lesser stars”, or “a sun round which the other planets revolve”.
Appointment of the Chief Minister is formally made by the Governor. But as already we have seen, the Governor has little choice in the matter.
The usual practice is that after the General Election is over, the Governor invites the leader of the majority party in the State Legislature to become the Chief Minister.
Only when no party commands majority the Governor may use his discretion. The Chief Minister and other Ministers get such salaries and allowances as determined by the State Legislature. Like other Ministers the Chief Minister has to take an oath of office before he enters upon his office.
Functions and Powers
It is the Chief Minister who heads the Council of Ministers in the State. Upon his recommendations the other Ministers are appointed or removed by the Governor.
Of course, the Chief Minister cannot ignore some important members in the party. He has to look to other considerations like the representation of minorities, the younger age group and the representation of Scheduled Castes in his Cabinet.
Sometimes in the appointment of Ministers, the regional consideration is also given due consideration. The Ministers should be selected from all regions of the State. In fact the Chief Minister is the central to its (Council of Ministers) formation, central to its life and central to its death.
When he resigns or dies the Council of Ministers also automatically goes out of power. He distributes portfolios among the members of the Council of Ministers. He presides over the meetings of the Cabinet. As the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee, he decides what matters should be put up before the Cabinet for discussion.
He is the connecting link between his Council of Ministers and the Governor. He is to communicate to the Governor the decisions of the Ministers and any other information, regarding the State administration which the Governor may call for. If the Governor so requires, the Chief Minister may place before the Cabinet any matter where a decision has been taken by a Minister without consulting his colleagues in the Cabinet.
The Chief Minister is the Chief spokesman of the State Government. His utterances and assurances are deemed to be authoritative and binding on the State Government. He also acts as the co-ordinator of Governmental policy and resolves any departmental conflict.
In this capacity, he is authorised to supervise the orders of any Minister and may repudiate any such order, if necessary. In certain appointments like the Advocate-General and the members of the State Public Service Commission, he exercises considerable influence.
The Chief Mmister also functions as the leader of the majority party in the State Legislature. In this capacity he has also great influence over the business in the State Legislature.
As the leader of the majority party he is in a position to get any legislation passed which is within the competence of the State Legislature. He is authorised to advise the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly. The Governor being a constitutional ruler generally acts upon the advice of the Chief Minister.
Thus the position of the Chief Minister in the State administration is very significant in relation to his Cabinet colleagues; He is more than a primus inter pares (First among equals).
The appointment and removal of the Cabinet colleagues are actually made by him. In distributing portfolios his voice is decisive. His resignation or death entails the resignation or death of the Council of Ministers.
In relation to the State Legislature the Chief Minister has considerable influence over the laws that are to be passed by the ] Legislature. He may recommend the Governor to dissolve State, Legislature and order for a fresh election, if it goes against him.
From all these constitutional provisions the Chief Minister may appear quite powerful in State administration.
But in actual practice the position of the Chief Minister of a State depends upon the following factors:
Firstly, the position of the Chief Minister depends primarily upon his personality. If he is a person of integrity and has a dominating personality then he can command great influence over State administration. It is rightly maintained that the office is what “the holder chooses to make it.”
Secondly, the position of the Chief Minister is partly determined by his relationship with the Party in power in the Centre. If a Chief Minister has much influence in the Centre he can make the position of the State more influential in New Delhi, thereby enhancing his authority and power in the State. As democracy is meant Government by parties, the Chief Minister of a State should have to please his central party organization. If the central organization of the party does not encourage him, his position in the State would be precarious.
Thirdly, the position of the Chief Minister considerably depends upon the support of the members of his party. If there are a number of dissidents in the party, they make his position “a bed of thorns.” As long as he enjoys the confidence of the State Legislature he is powerful. Once that confidence is withdrawn, no longer he continues to be the Chief Minister.