Of the two things that are ruling the central government after the announcement of the general elections is the Election Commission and the ubiquitous telephone — both of the fixed and mobile varieties.
For, many of the UPA ministers, far away in their home states and constituencies, are struggling hard to ensure that their work does not get affected because of hectic poll schedules.
The issue became serious after the Congress and its allies decided to field most ministers in this summer’s elections to boost the morale of the cadre and to tell the voter that senior ministers were not shying away from fighting the polls.
Even though the election model code prohibits the government from taking any policy decision once the elections are announced, the ministers have to handle routine matters. Plus, as the financial year is coming to an end, they have to approve as many projects as possible.
HRD minister Pallam Raju, for instance, is clearing five to seven files a day. “We are discussing the issues with him on the phone,” said an HRD ministry official.
The regulatory issues are being handled by secretaries of the higher and school education departments.
Finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been campaigning in Tamil Nadu, has adopted a more hands-on approach. “He knows every single thing that is happening in the ministry.
There is no scope for complacency,” a senior finance ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said.
Oil minister Veerappa Moily, on the other hand, has been visiting Delhi frequently from his constituency Chikkallapur in Karnataka, where former Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy is his main opponent. Moily has been camping in his constituency since early March.
He was in Delhi last Friday to implement the Election Commission’s direction to defer the increase in gas prices till the elections were over. “He also asked us to refer environment approvals for some projects to the Election Commission,” a senior ministry official said.
Defence minister A K Antony, a Rajya Sabha member, left for Kerala to lead campaigning.
A source said the minister was clearing important matters over the phone.
Urban development minister Kamal Nath, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and urban poverty alleviation minister Girija Vyas, however, are focusing almost entirely on their campaign duties. But although they have been mostly absent in Delhi, approvals are coming through emails, fax and, of course, phones.
Delhi-based ministers like Krishna Tirath, women and child development, and Kapil Sibal, law, and those busy with party work such as labour and road transport minister Oscar Fernandes are running their offices from home.
A law ministry official said, “The minister is being briefed on a daily basis on important legal issues.”
Another official said it had not been easy for the ministers as they had to ensure that office work did not suffer much because of their hectic election schedules.
Full Coverage: Lok Sabha elections 2014