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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014

Modi off to Brazil for BRICS summit; won’t leave a second-in-command

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 13, 2014
First Published: 00:05 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 07:24 IST(13/7/2014)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be leaving for Brazil on Sunday on a five-day trip (July 13-17) but he hasn’t designated any minister to take charge of the government in his absence, HT has learnt.

Till late Saturday, official sources said, Modi had not named a No. 2. In the event of an exigency while he is away in Fortaleza for the BRICS summit, the cabinet committee on political affairs (CCPA) is likely to be in charge, the sources said.

The CCPA is headed by the PM and has 10 members, including those from alliance partners in the NDA. If the PM is not present, the committee would be chaired by the senior-most minister in the government, according to standing instructions issued in 2012. After Modi, the pecking order in the current CCPA has home minister Rajnath Singh at the top, followed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance minister Arun Jaitley and others.

This is a deviation from past practice when then PM Manmohan Singh would designate his senior-most minister — Pranab Mukherjee in the beginning and AK Antony in the latter stages of the UPA regime — to officiate in his absence.

Read: PM Modi to meet Latin leaders

There was, however, clarity on Saturday on the leadership issue in Parliament. While Modi was named leader of the reconstituted BJP parliamentary party in both Houses, his deputies will be home minister Rajnath Singh in Lok Sabha and finance minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha.

Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu will be the government’s chief whip in Parliament. He will be assisted by Santosh Gangwar in Lok Sabha and Prakash Javadekar in Rajya Sabha.

The BJP also named 13 whips in the lower House and three in the Upper House.

In the UPA government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was chairperson of the parliamentary party and there were separate leaders for both Houses — Manmohan Singh in Rajya Sabha and Mukherjee in Lok Sabha till he became President and was replaced by Sushilkumar Shinde.


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