New Delhi: Three of five top Central ministers including Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be out of the country this week. This will be the first time when Modi and his top two ministers will be out of the country with nobody designated to take charge of the government in their absence.
While Modi is already on three-nation tour of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka to reinvigorate relations, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will today be leaving for a three day official visit to United Kingdom.
Modi is presently in Mauritius. The Prime Minister, who will be the chief guest at the national day celebrations here today, will fly to Sri Lanka before coming back to New Delhi.
Jaitley, during his stay in UK, will be the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. This will be Jaitley's first official visit to the nation as Finance Minister. He will also meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne separately and address foreign institutional investors for the first time since the Indian budget was announced.
The third in the line is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who will travel to Japan to attend an international conference on disaster risk reduction on March 14. The conference, being held at Sendai, will conclude on March 18. The Home Minister will also inaugurate a Buddhist art exhibition at Tokyo National Museum and interact with the members of the Indian community in Sendai and Tokyo.
On Friday and Saturday, when the three will not be here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be the senior-most minister at the Centre.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), however, said that since there was no prolonged gap, there was no need for Modi to designate anybody in his absence. The Prime Minister keeps a tab on everything even when he is abroad, sources added.
The absence of three also means that the crucial five-member Cabinet Committee on Security will function with two members only -- Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
All the three are also out at a time when the second half of the Budget Session is underway.
The Opposition in Rajya Sabha have already forced the NDA government, which is in minority here, to send two crucial bills Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, to a Select Committees for greater scrutiny.
The government, however, succeeded in ensuring that the two panels finish their task by March 18, just two days before the adjournment of the Parliament, so that government can seek passage of the bills.
Today, crucial Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill that seeks to raise the FDI cap from the existing 26 to 49 per cent will be taken up by the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passage. The Bill will be tabled in the absence of Modi. The Opposition parties including Congress have agreed to support passage of the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, the fate of contentious Land Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, hangs in limbo with Opposition leaders in the Upper House hinting that they would try and send the legislation to a Standing or Select Committee.