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Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

June 16, 2014 11:34 IST

Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

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Archis Mohan

A Cabinet expansion is on the cards before the Budget session to take away additional portfolios from those unable to keep up with the pace of work. Archis Mohan reports

The effect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'minimum government, maximum governance' philosophy is showing -- not only in bureaucrats' punctual ways and cleaner office spaces but also in the bleary eyes of overworked ministers.

On an average, Modi logs a punishing 18-hour workday and expects his ministers to follow his lead. This is, indeed, giving encouraging results for the government's efficiency, but not so much for the health of many in Modi's 44-member Council of Ministers.

Three weeks into their new jobs, ministers have started telling their friends in the Bharatiya Janata Party that the prime minister is a hard taskmaster.

Many look sleep-deprived, their body clocks are a mess and their dormant health problems are resurfacing due to stress and work pressure.

Work from early mornings to late nights seems the norm. Some kept their habit of afternoon siesta but only in the first few days.

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Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

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Archis Mohan

Modi, known to be a workaholic, has entered the Prime Minister's Office after a decade as chief minister of Gujarat.

He starts his days at six in the morning, is on the phone from seven to eight, and ends his days around midnight.

But most of his Cabinet colleagues have taken office after a 10-year hiatus from power.

The break had its perks -- among other things, a relaxed lifestyle.

For example, a minister handling two important portfolios was, until recently, used to taking a bath in the afternoon and turning up at the party office a little after lunch.

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Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

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Archis Mohan

Ram Vilas Paswan, the 67-year-old leader of BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party, looks as if he hasn't had a proper sleep in a long time.

When a group of journalists visiting him earlier this week asked whether he wasn't feeling well, Paswan attributed his bleary-eyed self to Delhi's scorching heat.

But an aide spilled the beans: "Mantri ji was used to starting his day around early afternoon; these days, he is having to adjust his sleep cycle with the prime minister's.

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Image: Ram Vilas Paswan
Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

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Archis Mohan

The Dalit leader from Bihar is not alone. Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has suddenly become an early-morning bird.

During his days as BJP's national president, Gadkari was known to hold crucial meetings around dinner time and end those past midnight.

But the politician from Maharashtra is a rare minister to have successfully changed his sleep pattern: He now starts his day early enough to receive the first call from the PM.

Unlike Gadkari, who has additional charge of the rural development ministry after the demise of Gopinath Munde, several others in the Council of Ministers are facing challenges in the enormous workload they are saddled with, as well as the close scrutiny they are being subjected to.

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Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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Modi's mantris: Overworked, sleep-deprived and under stress

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Archis Mohan

The worst affected are those with multiple portfolios.

Among them is a minister known to earlier start his day at 2 pm. He is now left wondering if his new body clock would affect his health.

Sources in the Modi government and BJP claim the National Democratic Alliance government will see a Cabinet expansion before the Budget session starts in the second week of July.

The expansion might mean taking away of additional portfolios from those unable to keep up with the pace of work -- the minister who is worried about his health is likely to be among them.

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Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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Archis Mohan

Like Gadkari, Parliamentary Affairs & Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu has also managed to keep in step.

He is already emerging as chief spokesperson of the new government. Last week, Naidu surprised his officials by reaching office at nine in the morning and chastising those turning up late.

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, too, is somebody who has shown an ability to put in the required hours.

Similar is the case with Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state (independent charge) for commerce & industry and minister of state (Arun Jaitley's deputy) for finance and corporate affairs.

Her transition from the party's hardworking spokesperson to an equally competent minister has been smooth.

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Image: Parliamentary Affairs and Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu
Photographs: Press Information Bureau
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Archis Mohan

But another minister, entrusted with several important portfolios because of his competence, isn't having a very good time because of the work pressure.

The holiday request of this minister, who is from a big city and used to keeping late hours, was politely turned down.

A BJP leader said the last time government officers were seen punctually reporting to work was during the Emergency of 1975.

"Atal Bihari Vajpayee would also start his day early. He would be warm and encourage us a lot," said the leader, with a pinch of nostalgia.

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Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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