Monday, 30th October 2017

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Amit Shah absence triggers questions

Many wonder where minister is

By TT Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 29.03.20, 3:20 AM
  • Updated 29.03.20, 3:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
Amit Shah on Thursday accused the Opposition of spreading “vranti” (disinformation) and alleged its leaders had not said anything against the citizenship bill in Parliament. (PTI)

The lockdown is on but the bid to break the chain of transmission has not succeeded in containing one question.

Where is Union home minister Amit Shah, the country’s new “Iron Man”?

The question hangs in the corridors of power amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with Shah’s absence from the frontline leaving many wondering about his role in the battle against the virus.

Shah — the second most powerful leader in the ruling dispensation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi — has so far been engaged in merely tweeting to hail the measures taken by the government or sending advisories to states.

Sources in North Block said the home ministry was working with skeleton staff — only a few bureaucrats — as most officials had been asked to work from home as part of social-distancing measures.

One official said the home minister too has been working from his Krishna Menon Marg residence in Delhi. “He is keeping a tab on the developments and issuing instructions to senior bureaucrats from his home over phone,” the official said.

Another official said phone lines at the ministry’s control room had not stopped ringing since Wednesday.

“People from across the country have been calling to say that migrant workers were struggling and left stranded without food. Many of the callers are civil society activists and NGO workers and they have been demanding to talk to the home minister. We don’t know what to say as we have also not seen the home minister in his office since Wednesday.”

On Saturday night, Shah tweeted a picture of himself at a meeting with junior ministers and officials.

Before that, several social media users had questioned Shah’s absence. “The entire country is witnessing a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of people and migrant workers have been stranded in Delhi and other cities without food. Many of them have started walking on foot to their respective villages. When will people get to see the home minister of the country leading from the front?” Anup Rastogi tweeted.

Another tweeter highlighted that the minister had taken advantage of the Covid-19 panic to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.

The fact is Shah had retreated to the background since last month’s Delhi riots, when he should have led from the front in handling the crisis.

Shah had earlier come into the picture only once since Modi announced the 21-day lockdown on Tuesday in a bid to break the chain of transmission.

On Wednesday afternoon, he had tweeted a photo of Modi holding a cabinet meeting, with all the ministers sitting at a distance from each other.

Such social-distancing measure was the “need of the hour”, Shah said. “We are ensuring it... are you?” he tweeted.

Many in the BJP feel that Shah is a deeply political person, obsessed with winning elections, and so has kept aloof from the current crisis.

Sources in his ministry said Shah suffers from diabetes, a possible reason he was taking social distancing seriously.