Long Hours, Working Holidays. Amit Shah's Home Ministry Is Different

Published: June 07, 2019 20:34 IST
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Work hours at North Block, the headquarters of the home ministry in Delhi, have stretched, not because of longer days in summer but because of a "workaholic" Home Minister.

Amit Shah arrived at his office before 10 am on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, he was in by 9.40 am and stayed till late.

I have been covering the Home Ministry now for a decade and I have observed four home ministers.

Amit Shah is the first to spend his entire day in office and leave after 8 pm.

The result is that not just officers, even the two junior home ministers work long. Unlike his predecessor Rajnath Singh, the home minister does not go home for lunch.

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Amit Shah led home ministry will be a major power centre. (PTI)

Lunch comes to him in a neatly wrapped basket, everyday by 12.45 pm.

Even on Eid, Wednesday, Amit Shah showed up at work. On cue, so did his two deputies and most senior officers, who had assumed it was a holiday.

"If the senior minister is in office we have to be around. And this is just the beginning as he often works during late hours too but we are used to it," discloses one of his junior ministers.

Many BJP leaders recall they would keep a pen and paper by their bed before sleeping, ready for any phone call from Amit Shah. The party chief used to call them up, often late at night, and give tasks and set deadlines too.

"Our minister can tackle 80 committees, let alone eight," the minister of state chuckled.

Even officials are trying to keep pace with the 30th Home Minister of the country.

The previous minister, Rajnath Singh, often worked from home after completing the first half of the day at his Raisina Hills office. Most of his important meetings, even political, were held at his residence.

The new home minister schedules almost all his meetings at North Block. From Governors to Chief Ministers to Cabinet Ministers, to the state BJP and its allies, everyone has a new destination.

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Amit Shah, a close confidant of PM Modi for a couple of decades, had crafted two national elections around him. 

Many paramilitary chiefs have been able to meet him but state police chiefs are still in queue. They have been told the minister is "busy".

Which he definitely is, as he takes briefings on various wings in his ministry. There are 19 departments and each has been asked to prepare a presentation for the minister.

There are indications that the Amit Shah-led home ministry will be a major power centre. He figures in all eight cabinet committees; even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is named in six. Rajnath Singh was included in only two in the first list put out on Thursday. By evening, he had been added to six of them.

Is Amit Shah the new de facto Deputy Prime Minister?

The bureaucracy is abuzz with this topic. "He is positioning himself like that and babus are also falling in line on key issues. As no one wants to tell him no or give a counter point of view," states an officer in ministry.

Some bureaucrats say the debutant union minister, credited with crafting the BJP's incredible victory run, is the rising star in Modi era 2.

The fact that Amit Shah is also in committees that have nothing to do with the Home Ministry - the new ones on jobs and growth being two clear examples - indicate his importance in the government. "The fact that Rajnath Singh is listed as number two minister is most of these committees does not diminish Shah's importance," an official said.

The role of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval in the new government of PM Modi is also fueling talk.

"In internal security matters, earlier the NSA used to call the shots. But Amit Shah cannot be discounted by any bureaucrat," states another officer.

Another most-talked about subject in the power corridors is the Cabinet Committee on Security, which has a very important role to play as the government is going to focus on national security in the Modi 2 era.

The panel always features the government's top four, and new Foreign Minister S Jaishankar is a part of it.

Mr Doval's elevation to cabinet rank, officials speculate, was only to bring him on par with Mr Jaishankar as it was felt that a constant comparison would be made between the two.

"In the previous government, Jaishankar used to attend Mr Doval's meetings but now he is part of the CCS, a very big jump," explains a government official.

Matters related to Jammu and Kashmir, the Naxal problem, the North East, the National Register of Citizens of India , Citizenship bill and even whether India should resume dialogue with Pakistan are core subjects that will be discussed in the next five years.

(Neeta Sharma is Editor, Strategic and Security Affairs at NDTV India)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.



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