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Rajnath homes in on onions

New Delhi, July 3: Rajnath Singh’s first news conference as Union home minister today focused on potato and onion prices in Delhi, not guns and grenades.

One hot topic was raids —on suspected hoarders, not terror modules. As many as 540 premises had been raided on Tuesday alone and 1,082 in the past one month, a proud home minister said.

A television journalist couldn’t help asking: “Did you have to hold this press conference because it (vegetable prices) may impact internal security?”

Rajnath could only laugh in answer.

That the government would be keen to fight price rise amid the rising resentment is no surprise. But the media invite saying the subject of the home minister’s first media interaction was to be onion and potato prices in the capital did astonish many.

The briefing was held in the conference hall at North Block, a venue for internal security meetings, signing of peace pacts with militants, and treaties with foreign governments.

But Rajnath seemed short on talking points even the day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Kashmir visit. And even at a time several governors have quit and successors must be found for them.

It’s a shortage that had kept him from any media interaction since being sworn in 38 days ago. With Modi apparently keeping the reins of governance firmly in hand, most ministers have been shying away from the media anyway.

That the big decisions will be taken in the Prime Minister’s Office is apparent. Modi will meet chief ministers sometime in August to discuss internal security and Centre-state relations, sources told The Telegraph.

Sources said the expected consultation with the home ministry on Modi’s Valley trip had not taken place.

Rajnath is yet to visit any of the major theatres of internal strife although his junior, Kiren Rijiju, will travel to Arunachal Pradesh tomorrow to review border management programmes.

The home minister wasn’t ready to talk about prices countrywide, either, but only in Delhi on the plea that it is a Union territory and is under central rule.

“Union territories’ administration is under my purview, so I shall speak only about them,” he said.

Administration of Union territories is one of the ministry’s 20 divisions, along with those for internal security, police modernisation, border management, Left-wing extremism and the like.

Yesterday, the government had brought onions and potatoes under the Essential Commodities Act.

“There should be no hoarding and where necessary, there should be raids,” Rajnath said. He added that the number of government-recognised outlets selling onions and potatoes would be increased.

An action plan for the period between July 15 and September 15 would be prepared to control prices.

Rajnath said he had met Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung over the spiralling prices of essentials while home secretary Anil Goswami had spoken to top agriculture ministry officials. “We’ll try to strike a balance between demand and supply,” he said.

Rajnath did answer a few questions relating to his ministry’s other mandates, though. The answers were brief and delivered after consulting Goswami who sat on his left.

He confirmed that officials from the Registrar General of India, which functions under the home ministry, and the Unique Identification Authority of India met today to sort out their respective duties. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attended the meeting.

Asked about the Z-plus security for BJP general secretary Amit Shah, Rajnath said security matters depended on inputs from the Intelligence Bureau.