‘No need for the Defence Minister to talk so callously’

A videograb showing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with Kodagu in-charge Minister S.R. Mahesh during a meeting in Kodagu on Friday.

A videograb showing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with Kodagu in-charge Minister S.R. Mahesh during a meeting in Kodagu on Friday.   | Photo Credit: TH

A 120-second verbal spat caught on camera between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Kodagu district in-charge Minister S.R. Mahesh over the itinerary during her visit to the flood-affected areas on Friday has drawn flak from leaders of the Congress and the JD(S).

While the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tweeted that Ms. Sitharaman was more interested in “dominating our State Minister” (Mr. Mahesh), Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara tweeted: “Our ministers have stayed back in Kodagu for weeks to oversee relief operations along with district administration. You should extend to them the same respect that they extend for the help from your end. It was disappointing to see you lash out at my colleague.”

JD (S) State president A.H. Vishwanath said: “Such an episode should not have happened.”

Mr. Vishwanath said that Mr. Mahesh was a representative of the State government and should have been treated with the dignity and respect the post deserves.

“There was no need for the Defence Minister to talk so callously,” he said.

Minister for Primary and Secondary Education N. Mahesh, at a function in Bengaluru, said: “We respect her but what she did was not right.”

On Friday, Ms. Sitharaman was with some ex-servicemen during which Mr. Mahesh asked her to interact first with the officials involved in rescue work.

Ms. Sitharaman agreed and in the meeting hall, after confirming with the Kodagu DC Srividya that the previous meeting was also scheduled, she snapped at Mr. Mahesh that she was following the itinerary.

A visibly upset Ms. Sitharaman rebuked the two to sort out the differences, if they had any, over the itinerary and not put her in “an embarrassing situation.”

Mr. Mahesh later told presspersons that she did not visit a few camps at Kushalnagar as mentioned in the itinerary. However, one of the elected representatives from the BJP, who was part of the convoy, said that the visit to Kushalnagar was dropped at the last minute as the water levels had completely receded in the town while other areas in Kodagu were still reeling under the impact of the disaster.

Ms. Sitharaman was also ushered to a relief camp run by Seva Bharathi, an affiliate of the RSS, and it was not in the itinerary, alleged Mr. Mahesh.

However, the local BJP leaders said there were nearly 350 people in the camp and hence the visit cannot be faulted.

“Moreover, during visits to disaster-affected areas one cannot follow protocol strictly as in a university convocation and there could be some deviations,” added a BJP leader.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 1:56:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/no-need-for-the-defence-minister-to-talk-so-callously/article24782533.ece

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