In a first for the NDA government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his top two ministers will be out of the country on Friday and Saturday, with nobody designated to take charge of the government in their absence.
While the PM is already on a tour of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka and will be back Saturday night, finance minister Arun Jaitley leaves for a three-day visit to the UK on Thursday and home minister Rajnath is headed for Japan for four days.
This also means three of the five members of the crucial cabinet committee on security will not be in the Capital for these two days. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be the senior-most minister at the Centre for this period.
Sources in the prime minister’s office said since there was “no prolonged gap”, there was no need for the PM to designate anybody in his absence. The PM “keeps a tab on everything” even when he is abroad, they added.
Even during UPA rule, it was rare that the top three ministers of the government, including the PM, were out of the country simultaneously.
When Modi went on his first foreign visit to Brazil for the BRICS summit last July, there was intense speculation about his No. 2 in the absence of an official notification. Before leaving for the US in September, though, he directed that during his absence, “urgent business may be put up before the home minister for disposal”. The cabinet secretariat issued an order to this effect and Singh even presided over a cabinet meeting. However, there is no cabinet meeting scheduled for the coming few days.
Jaitley will unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at London’s Parliament Square on Saturday, meet British Prime Minister David Cameron and hold meetings with investors before returning to Delhi on Sunday morning. Singh, who leaves Thursday midnight, will participate in a World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Japanese city of Sendai.