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Sunday, August 01, 2021

After exit, silence of the night outside their houses

On the streets of Lutyens' Delhi on Wednesday night, there was almost a foolproof way to tell who was in, and who wasn’t. Outside the homes of the new entrants were rows of cars — of well-wishers, bouquets in hand, waiting to register their presence.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi |
Updated: July 8, 2021 10:38:24 am
Harsh Vardhan’s residence in Delhi, after he resigned from the Union cabinet. (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

After days of guesswork, all speculation was finally put to rest on Wednesday evening. At Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Narendra Modi government’s long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle finally came to fruition. New faces were inducted; some seasoned ones resigned.

On the streets of Lutyens’ Delhi on Wednesday night, there was almost a foolproof way to tell who was in, and who wasn’t. Outside the homes of the new entrants were rows of cars — of well-wishers, bouquets in hand, waiting to register their presence.

Outside those who suddenly found themselves no longer part of the Cabinet, a lonely silence.

Around 7.30 pm at 21-Mother Teresa Crescent, the bungalow of Ravi Shankar Prasad, who resigned Wednesday as Minister of Law and Justice and Information Technology, there were five vehicles parked inside, but no supporters, no cars on the road outside. Prasad has been a minister with a very public profile, publicly taking on Twitter, and often the face behind government press conferences.

Two kilometers away, at 28-Akbar Road, the home of Narayan Rane, the staff were busier — he had taken the oath.

Perhaps headlining the changes was the exit of Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. Outside his bungalow at 8-Tees January Marg, there was a similar desolation. At 8 pm, there was one TV reporter, using the backdrop of the former minister’s nameplate, and two photographers waiting for the leader to come home. The talk had changed from a government vociferously defending its actions during the pandemic to “sources admitting the need for change,” the reporter said into his mic.

Only one minister dropped from the Cabinet broke his silence on Wednesday — Babul Supriyo. In a Facebook post in the morning, Supriyo wrote that he had been asked to resign, quickly then changing it to he “had resigned.”

Supriyo posted: “Yes, when there is smoke there must be a fire somewhere. Not being able to take phone calls of my friends in the media who care for me hence let me spell it out myself. Yes, I have resigned from the Council Of Ministers (As I had framed it earlier, “Asked to resign” may not be the right way to put it). I thank Honble Prime Minister for giving me the privilege to serve my country as a Member of his Council of Ministers…my bestest of wishes to my colleagues, whose names I can’t spell out but by now everyone is aware, will be sworn in as Hon’ble Ministers from Bengal.”

Outside the homes of Prakash Javadekar at 6-Kushak Road and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at 27-Safdarjung Road, conversation had somewhat nervously turned to the future.

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