Modi Trav­els by Night, Sleeps on Flights to Save Time

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Aman.Sharma @times­group.com

New Delhi: Check-in bags are not com­ing off Air In­dia One these days, as on most of the nights, the Prime Min­is­ter aims at sleep­ing on the plane rather than in for­eign ho­tels to shorten his trips.

In his lat­est trips to Bel­gium, US and Saudi Ara­bia be­tween March 30 and April 2, Naren­dra Modi spent three nights on Air In­dia One – while in tran­sit from Delhi to Brus­sels, from Brus­sels to Wash­ing­ton DC and from there to Riyadh. He just spent two nights at ho­tels – one in Wash­ing­ton and one in Riyadh. "It is un­prece­dented to com­plete a PM's multi­na­tion trip in­volv­ing US in just 97 hours. If the PM had not cho­sen to sleep on the plane, we would not have been back for at least six days," a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told ET. For­mer prime min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh’s vis­its were longer and largely sum­mit-re­lated with sin­gle-city en­gage­ments. Overnight travel was oc­ca­sional. But for­eign sched­ules are now short and packed as per Modi’s di­rec­tions to save "un­pro­duc­tive night stay in for­eign ho­tels" and use it for air travel, mul­ti­ple se­nior of­fi­cials told ET on the con­di­tion of anonymity. In his first two years, Modi as the PM would have spent 95 days abroad much more than Singh’s 72 days abroad in his first two years in UPA-1and UPA-2. But Modi has cov­ered far more ground by vis­it­ing 40 coun­tries in his 20 trips. Singh could visit18 coun­tries in15 trips in UPA-1and 24 coun­tries in17 trips in UPA-2 in the first two years.

"Modi says he wants to push max­i­mum but­tons…he has un­end­ing energy," an of­fi­cial said. He chose to take a mid­night flight on March 30 to Brus­sels to use the nine-hour fly­ing time to sleep and land there at 6 am lo­cal time. Ini­tially, a night stay and com­mu­nity ad­dress the next morn­ing was planned in in Brus­sels. But March 31 was a work­ing day and Modi did not wish that the NRIs take the day off to come to lis­ten to him. “PM said he could eas­ily spend con­sec­u­tive nights on the air­craft," an of­fi­cial told ET. The com­mu­nity ad­dress hence hap­pened on March 30 at 9 pm af­ter back-to-back meet­ings. Modi left for the air­port and took a 10-hour flight to US. Check-in bags of the del­e­ga­tion were not taken off Air Force1in Bel­gium (but in Wash­ing­ton) and of­fi­cials packed in an ex­tra piece of cloth­ing in a hand bag­gage. Sleep­ing through time zones, PM landed in the wee hours of March 31, in the US for yet another busy day.

On the plane too, Modi does not sleep through­out the time on his flat-bed cabin. "He wants a de­tailed de­brief­ing on the plane af­ter one leg of the trip is over. There is no lux­ury to re­turn to In­dia and then pre­pare for the de­brief­ing," an of­fi­cial said. The PM wants a brief­ing within 30 min­utes of check­ing into a for­eign ho­tel too be­fore the bi­lat­eral com­mence.

"A night should be spent in a for­eign ho­tel only if there is an en­gage­ment sched­uled the next day," an of­fi­cial ex­plained Modi’s line of thought. On April 1, the PM was in Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit till 5 pm. He reached the air­port straight from the venue to fly out of Riyadh at 7 pm. He slept on the 12-hour flight again to save a day. Modi ar­rived there on April 2 af­ter­noon, spent the night and held talks the next day. At 7 pm on April 3, the PM flew back and ar­rived at Race Course Road at 2 am. He had meet­ings sched­uled the next morn­ing.

But what about jet-lag of travel to-and-fro US time zones? "Be­fore jet lag hits re­verse jet lag comes into force," an of­fi­cial quipped.

ARINDAM

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