How India's top guns are dealing with lockdown

How India's top guns are dealing with lockdown
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference with chief ministers
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After international flights shut operations, many high-fliers were virtually grounded.

Wags took to social media to poke fun of VIPs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Both spent their longest period in Delhi in the recent past, they trolled.

The PM and Rahul extensively tour the country and abroad.

However, Modi has been staying put at the prime minister's office-cum-residence complex since the lockdown was imposed, conducting all his work from Lok Kalyan Marg, formerly known as 7, Race Course Road.

How India's top guns are dealing with lockdown
Rahul Gandhi

The complex is equipped with state-of-the-art conferencing facilities and the PM has conferred with chief ministers, opposition leaders and addressed global conclaves from here.

It was Modi who suggested to Saudi Arabia that King Salman should convene a video summit of G20 leaders on how the world's biggest economies can deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PM also addressed the plenary session of the Non Aligned Movement and held a meeting with heads of SAARC countries.

Officials say the prime minister packs more into the day with meetings and consultations, with cabinet ministers and senior officials always on call.

Even before lockdown was announced, he had asked all the ministers to stay back in Delhi.

Only Surface Transport and Small Industries Minister Nitin Gadkari, who had rushed to his home town Nagpur, could not return before domestic flights were cancelled.

How India's top guns are dealing with lockdown
Nitin Gadkari

Gadkari could have come by a special fight to Delhi, but decided to operate from his constituency. He was also into an Ayurveda rejuvenation programme for over a month.

The tech savvy minister was addressing his officials in Delhi, giving inputs on the stimulus package to the prime minister, spoke to television channels and held discussions with industry associations during the lockdown.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, who engages often with their foreign counterparts are also depending

on video conferences.

Jaishankar also used the lockdown period to finish books on his reading list.

Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Ramesh Pokhriyal, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prahlad Joshi used video conferencing facility to deal with the issues in their constituencies.

Modi has been in touch with his Varanasi constituency, which has a full fledged team reporting to the Prime Minister's Office.

Some ministers also made discreet arrangements for road journey passes to ensure the families were united in Delhi.

The parliament secretariat arranged passes for two dozen MPs who had been in self quarantine after having come into contact with Lok Sabha member Dushyant Singh, who had attended a party with his mother and former Rajashtan Chief Minister Vasundhararaje Scindia in Lucknow with a singer who was a COVID-19 patient.

Like Modi, President Ramnath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu also were in their official residences. Naidu, a compulsive traveller from his younger days, made up by calling at least 50 persons every day, including MPs, chief ministers, opposition leaders, old acquaintances and journalists in many state capitals.

For Rahul Gandhi, too, the lockdown was helpful as he emerged as the principal spokesman of his party about the government policies.

Like Modi, Rahul has also been using technology to be in touch with Congress leaders in states

and for sessions with economists like Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee and former reserve bank governor Raghuram Rajan.

If modi has gone for periodic television speeches to connect with the country, Rahul has been busy holding press conferences and putting the government to notice mainly through tweets.

BJP president J P Nadda had to postpone his Bharat Darshan plans. Nadda's schedule was to visit all the states from April to June once the budget session of Parliament got over.

Massive rallies had been planned in big cities for the new BJP president.

Since Nadda is going to be busy with the Bihar Assembly Elections due in November, the party is rescheduling his Bharat Darshan. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has cut down travelling due to health reasons, is busy with virtual Congress Working Committee meetings and talking to state congress presidents.

Both Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, general secretaries of the CPM and the CPI, come to party offices and hold consultations with available office bearers.

The treasurers of most political parties are a relaxed lot as monthly travel bills have come to a naught, but contributions too have slowed down, even for BJP.

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