The cabinet, which is led by the prime minister and includes around 15 to 20 of the most significant ministers, is the official highest decision-making body. However, a smaller group known as the 'inner Cabinet' or 'Kitchen Cabinet' has developed as the true seat of power.
This informal organization is composed of the Prime Minister and two to four powerful colleagues in whom he has confidence and with whom he may discuss any issue. It provides advice to the prime minister on critical political and administrative matters and aids him in making critical choices.
It is made up of cabinet ministers as well as non-cabinet members such as friends and family members of the prime minister. There is no hard and fast rule about the composition or size of a Kitchen Cabinet, although the bigger it is, the more likely a Prime Minister would face criticism for being depending on nepotism rather than elected individuals' abilities.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Inner Cabinet’ consisted of Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, and Kidwai.
Lal Bahadur Shastri relied upon Y. B. Chavan, Swaran Singh, and G. L. Nanda.
A. B. Vajpayee’s ‘inner cabinet’ consisted of L. K. Advani, George Fernandes, M. M. Joshi, Pramod Mahajan and so on.
The prime ministers have turned to the 'inner cabinet' (extra-constitutional body) due to its advantages, which include the following:
It is a considerably more efficient decision-making body than a huge cabinet due to its size.
It can meet more often and do business more efficiently than the enormous cabinet.
It assists the Prime Minister in retaining confidentiality while making critical political choices.
Demerits of kitchen cabinet include
reduces the authority and status of the cabinet as the highest decision-making body.
It evades the legal process by enabling outsiders to exert influence on how the government operates.
The 'kitchen cabinet' phenomenon (in which choices are cooked and then presented to the cabinet for official approval) also occurs in the United States of America and the United Kingdom and is extremely effective at influencing government decisions in both countries.
The kitchen cabinet concept is not unique to India. It is neither new nor desirable in a democracy. It enables the Prime Minister and his close associates to exercise arbitrary control over the voice of the people by giving higher priority to the Prime Minister's close associates than to the representatives chosen by the people.
A democratic administration is defined by the people's will, but such extra-constitutional tools allow for the disregard of representatives, who are at the heart of democracy.