Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is busy restarting trains. In Railways, now there are two types of special trains, one for migrant labourers and the other for commercial passengers. There is a big screening process for the former with tests and isolation included after the trains reach their destinations, but for commercial passengers, it is not that stringent. In other words, if commercial passengers are infected, then the blame could be laid at Goyal’s door. The Railways is studying how to get out of this situation since it will be impossible to screen everyone once normal services resume. Meanwhile, Goyal is maintaining his sense of calm through pujas in the temple at his residence. In the time of social distancing, he has more time for this.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a committee of senior ministers to look at a solution for the return of migrant labourers. Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar is heading the taskforce. There are also Hardeep Singh Puri, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Kiren Rijiju and Babul Supriyo in it. Supriyo’s inclusion seems to spell his importance for the BJP’s political objectives. He is said to be close to Modi who is giving him more exposure before the West Bengal elections in 2021. The management of the pandemic could be a major issue in the polls and Supriyo’s inclusion could be a result of that.
Tejasvi Surya, the young BJP Member of Parliament, is both popular and a controversy magnet. From the time of his surprise nomination for a BJP ticket over the late Ananth Kumar’s wife, he has managed to hit the headlines repeatedly. Most recently, a sexist tweet about a Gulf nation that he made years ago resurfaced, making it an international incident. But both Modi and Amit Shah are said to view him as a promising future leader, perhaps even chief ministerial material. Within the party, he also has opponents, like Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, who keeps him at arm’s length. While BJP President JP Nadda is planning a restructuring, the group against Surya is said to be active in sidelining him.
Advani at Home
LK Advani is 93, yet in fine health. Given his age, he comes under the high-risk category of Covid-19, but is unfazed. Even before the lockdown, he rarely left his home, except to attend a few events. But he used to meet a lot of people. Now, he takes long walks on his lawn, watches movies and spends time with daughter Pratibha. He is reading less nowadays. But he is an optimist and thinks India and the world will overcome the crisis.
Blowing Hot and Cold
Home Minister Amit Shah recently called West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But it wasn’t about the pandemic. Instead, it was to cooperate on managing relief operations after Cyclone Amphan.
But the next day, the spirit of conviviality went missing when the Chief Minister received a letter from the home secretary in Delhi. This time, the subject was related to the lockdown, asking why the state government was not following the guidelines of the Centre with regards to imposing curfews. Banerjee responded by saying that law and order was a state subject.
The political tussle between Priyanka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath got interesting. She had first offered to organise 1,000 buses to aid migrant labourers to return to Uttar Pradesh (UP). First, there was no permission coming from the government and then Adityanath accepted the offer but asked for the registration numbers of the buses with details of drivers. Priyanka asked her party workers to get the list and sent it to the state government. When they got it, the UP government realised that only 200 were of buses and others were of two-wheelers and ambulances. When Priyanka was informed, she was reportedly upset and asked her workers why they hadn’t been honest. They replied that Adityanath controlled all private bus owners’ associations and nobody was ready to give them buses. The Congress then organised the buses from Rajasthan and brought them to the UP border. When the government didn’t give permission to enter, they did a dharna at the spot. Congress workers are now asking Priyanka to raise the pitch against Adityanath over the issue.
Some Indian politicians have been forced to live away from their spouses because of the lockdown. Like Uttar Pradesh Minister Sidharth Nath Singh who is in Lucknow while his wife, a renowned dentist, remains in Noida. They interact over video chats. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is in Delhi while his wife is based in Patna. He would usually be with her at the weekends. That has now stopped. Home Minister Amit Shah also works out of Delhi while his family is in Ahmedabad.