Judging by the complete lack of fuss, it would appear as if the prime minister undergoing a surgical procedure has become a matter of routine for the Indian government.
There has been no delegation of powers, no emergency procedures put in place, no nothing. "The question does not arise," says a top official in the Prime Minister's Office, "because as happened last time, the PM will be on local anaesthesia, and therefore in a position to take decisions in an emergency."
The government, thus, will virtually run on auto-pilot for the duration. In case of need, Home Minister L K Advani will chair meetings of the Cabinet. There has, however, been no official delegation of power.
Before his departure for Bombay for the surgery provisionally scheduled for Thursday morning, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee spent some time fire-fighting. Ministers of State Bandaru Dattatrya, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and others had complained that their respective Cabinet ministers have not been delegating any work to them.
The ministers felt that power was not trickling down to the second tier of governance. For his part Vajpayee, who met with the junior ministers for two hours on Tuesday night, assured them that once he was through with his surgery, and back in the saddle, he would be filling up the various vacancies in the Cabinet and would, at the same time, initiate measures to address their complaint.
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