From Iron Man to Lockdown Model
For the second time in successive crises, Union home minister Amit Shah has made himself conspicuous by his absence.
The home minister was rarely sighted at the controls during February’s carnage in northeast Delhi; and he has spent nearly all of the coronavirus lockdown period so removed from the public eye that it has raised probing, often anxiety-ridden, questions over India’s second-most powerful entity: Where is Amit Shah? And why isn’t he being seen to be playing the role he ought to as home minister?
Is he unwell? Or is he merely being doubly cautious on distancing because he is diabetic and requires several doses of insulin?
Or could it be that he has been sidelined? Why was he not present at the group of ministers’ Covid-19 review meeting chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday?
There has yet been no credibly attributable answer to those questions. Any queries about Shah’s state of being or level of involvement in the current crisis – compared to wartime scale by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself – are strictly off the table.
Few are willing to take the question; none has been answering it with any degree of fullness or certitude. “The home minister is performing his duties from home,” has been the stock reply handed out by anonymous North Block sources.
Often, the media has also been drip-fed, again anonymously, details of the “busy schedule” Shah has been keeping from the recesses of his Lutyens bungalow.
A little past 6 on Saturday evening, ANI, a wire service widely seen as an accessory to the Modi government, put out pictures of Shah chairing a meeting of officials to “take stock” of the Covid-19 situation. By then, though, the wonderment over Shah’s extended absences from the scene had turned to public lampooning.
Srivatsa, a Congressman from Karnataka, tweeted: “Breaking News: UNESCO has just declared the Best Quarantine and Social Distancing Award in the World to India’s Home Minister Amit Shah. New India’s New Iron Man has followed the highest standards of quarantine by staying at home and disappearing from the scene altogether.”
It can be reliably concluded that Shah has rarely stepped out of his residence since the lockdown was imposed, and conducts most of his work on the phone. He was last seen seated at a distance behind the Prime Minister as he conferred with chief ministers over video on April 11.
The rest remains speculation, often fuelled by those in power circles Shah has not endeared himself to. “This is not the first time there is adverse comment over Amitji’s low profile,” said a senior BJP leader.
“Even during the Delhi riots, it was said that he had been cast aside or reprimanded for not being able to manage the situation. That turned out to be utterly false. The truth is, he remains Number Two in the government and enjoys the unstinted confidence of the Prime Minister. There is a bond between the two that many do not understand.”
In party circles, Shah’s absence from the frontlines of Covid-19 management is explained as a combination of the “extra care” he needs to take because of his pre-existing health issues and his “reluctance” to assume a prominent role at this time.
“The Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to engage with the masses and oversee the management of this crisis,” the BJP leader said. “Given that, Amitji is performing his ministerial duties from the background; he does not need to showcase himself and what he is doing.”
Another party leader, who has an interface with government matters, suggested it would be “erroneous” to reach “hurried and convenient” conclusions about Shah’s retreat to a work-from-home situation.
“The coronavirus crisis is the foremost concern of the government at the moment and all administrative and public attention is focused on managing it. But the fact remains that a home minister, especially a proactive home minister like Amit Shah, has more on his plate than just the coronavirus. After all, we must be prepared to land running when we get out of this crisis, and you will see Amit Shah lay out the road beyond the coronavirus the moment we get out of this,” the party leader said.
Asked whether he meant the revival of the controversial National Population Register (NPR) exercise, he said: “Well that is one of the things. Nobody in government has concluded that the NPR should be given up, we have merely been forced to postpone it because of the pandemic.”
He added, a bit cheekily: “Now is the time to keep public morale and confidence high; that isn’t Amit Shah’s forte.”
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Disclaimer : This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Quickclarity news.Publisher – The Telegraph