New Delhi: No phone calls.
No television cameras that roll every time he comes within range.
And no meetings.
That’s a fairly accurate description of the current schedule of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—and he is loving it, says an aide.
This person, who did not want to be identified, added that Singh now has the time to listen to his favourite ghazals, and, given his sweet tooth, eat sweets. Doctors are believed to have recommended sweets in small quantities to Singh, along with a protein-rich diet because they want him to gain the 5-8kg he has lost since undergoing a bypass surgery on 24 January.
The person, who also declined to identify Singh’s favourite ghazal singers, said the Prime Minister, who is expected to be out of action for at least three more weeks, begins his day with breathing exercises, a physiotherapy session, walking and a light breakfast. “Also, he has already started reading newspaper clippings the media department (press information bureau) compiles for him and has started occasionally watching news.”
Health concerns: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after being discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on 1 Feb. Reuters / PIB
It doesn’t, however, seem to be a complete holiday for Singh. The aide said the Prime Minister had started signing “very important papers”.
Still, Singh will miss the budget session of Parliament that starts today and will become the first prime minister to do so. The budget session will also be this government’s last hurrah—elections are scheduled to be held before May and will probably be announced after this session ends on 26 February. On 16 February, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was given additional charge of finance on 23 January before Singh went into surgery, will present the interim budget.
Political analyst and columnist T.V.R. Shenoy says Singh is the first prime minister to have stayed away from office for an extended period of time.
The Prime Minister’s Office, or PMO, said Singh’s condition is improving fast. “The Prime Minister continues to make good progress. He is in good health and is convalescing well,” said an official in the PMO, who din’t want to be identified.
Members of Singh’s family—his wife Gursharan Kaur and three daughters—take turns to stay with him. A doctor and a physiotherapist are available on tap at his residence at 7 Race Course Road, as is all medical equipment required to regularly monitor his health. “Doctors say it will take at least three more weeks for him to return to his normal schedule,” the aide said.