Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday took exception to senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley describing him as an "injured martyr" and termed the choice of his words as "unfortunate".
Apparently stung by Jaitley's criticism that the home minister rued his "limited mandate" given by the Cabinet Committee on Security in tackling the Maoist menace, Chidambaram went on to clarify that he was talking of "limited mandate" in the context that tackling Maoists was the state governments' responsibility.
"I believe Jaitely described me as an injured martyr. It was an unfortunate selection of words," he said.
"The injured martyrs are there in Chhattisgarh among the civilians and jawans," said Chidambaram, referring to the victims of the Maoist-triggered landmine blast in Dantewada. The blast in a civilian bus Monday killed at least 35 civilians and special police officers (SPOs).
Chidambaram said he spoke of "limited mandate" in the context that tackling Maoists was the prime responsibility of the state governments and the central government was there only to provide all requisite help to the chief ministers in meeting the menace.
"If you play around with words, you can go on to say that the chief ministers have unlimited mandate," said Chidambaram.
Jaitley, in his comments, said: "Chidambaram appeared to be an injured martyr. He claimed that he only had limited mandate from the Cabinet Committee on Security as against a larger mandate that he desired."
The BJP leader was commenting on Chidambaram's interview to NDTV news channel that he gave shortly after news of the Maoist attack in Dantewada.
"I appeal to all political parties, specially the BJP, to maintain a bipartisan approach to the problem of the Maoists," Chidambaram said.
The home minister spoke to waiting reporters and television news channels when he emerged from his North Block office on Raisina Hill.
He, however, refused to take any questions on whether the government would consider reviewing its anti-Maoist policy or consider including the provisions of air surveillance. He stone-walled queries, saying he has already spoken to various news channels in his interviews to them.