New Delhi: Speculation is rife about why finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman was conspicuous by her absence at talks about the upcoming Union budget 2020, held by the government with industry leaders of the country.
On Thursday, prime minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting with industry experts and economists amid no rosy forecasts about growth of the economy. More important than the content of discussions, so it emerged later, was the absence of one key player in the exercise, i.e the finance miniser. This is all the more noticeable when other ministers including home minister Amit Shah, commerce and railway minister Piyush Goyal and surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari were present.
Though BJP sources dismissed suggestions that Sitharaman was sidelined, supported by the photographs of her appearing at another meeting, it only triggered more conjectures because those meetings should not have taken her time when the more consequential budget discussions concerning her portfolio was going on.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor was among those quick to take to Twitter and ask "“Where is the finance minister? Or has the Duo forgotten they have one?”. The tweet soon started trending. “Same question again… What’s going on here? Finance Minister indisposed?” he added, attaching pictures of the Niti Aayog meeting.
Personally, Sitharaman kept silent, but her office tweeted to explain that her meetings with those constituencies were already held last month.
Part of the negative grapevine was of her own making in the backdrop of the protests and sensitive happenings in Jawaharlal Nehru University against the citizenship amendment law. As an alumna of JNU, she had reacted to the events there via Twitter: "Horrifying images from JNU — the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today. This govt, regardless of what has been said the past few weeks, wants universities to be safe spaces for all students.”