CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's third video conference with the Chief Ministers was keenly followed held as it was in the final week of Lockdown 2.0.
Which of the CMs will attend? What will they have to say? These were the questions hanging in the air ahead of the meeting.
What West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will end up doing seemed to be of particular note to many who were looking for ways to spice up the morning of day 34 of India's Great Lockdown.
So, when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijyan skipped the video-conference, phone lines began to hum. Why had he deputed his chief secretary to attend the meeting instead of joining it himself, many wondered.
More so, because it came just two days after an interview Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac gave to The New Indian Express in which he said that the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hadn't met him or other state Finance Ministers even once during the COVID-19 crisis.
Was CM Vijayan sending out a message?
The truth it emerged was more prosaic.
The Chief Minister skipped the meeting only because he was not due to speak.
Such has been the nature of these video conferences that only nine CMs get to speak on every occasion. On April 27, the nine allowed to make their pitch were the CMs of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana.
When they were contacted, the Kerala CMO also cited this to be the reason. They added that the Chief Minister had already briefed Union Home Minister Amit Shah about the lockdown situation in the state prior to the meeting. This was why he deputed the chief secretary to attend the meeting in place of him, the CMO sources clarified.
Chief Minister Vijayan had attended the two earlier video conferences and shared what he had to say, the CMO sources stressed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have suggested that lockdown must continue in red zones across the state while also seeking an exit plan from the states.
At the video conference, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik was said to be in favour of extending the lockdown by a month till June 3. He also requested that stranded workers be taken care of by the respective states.
CM Patnaik also called for testing facilities to be scaled up.
(With Express News Service inputs)