Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj took a dig at Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Thursday for remarks that his government was paying the travel expenses of state residents evacuated from West Asia.
Twenty-nine Indians, rescued from strife-torn Libya where the Islamic State militant group has wreaked havoc, landed in the Kochi international airport in the morning. Of them, 16 were from Kerala.
In the state that goes to polls on May 16, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally a day ago that the central government was committed to work for welfare of Indians living abroad.
But after Chandy indicated that the central government did not bear the expenses, Swaraj contradicted his claims in a series of tweets.
“Mr.Chandy - We evacuated thousands of Indians from Kerala from Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Who paid for them?”
The external affairs minister, who is undergoing treatment in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences for chest congestion, blamed Chandy for triggering the debate.
Mr.Chandy - You said 'Kerala paid for 29 Indians evacuated from Libya.'— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) May 12, 2016
“Mr.Chandy - You started this debate - as to Who paid ? Not me. We always did this because this is our pious duty towards our citizens,” she said in another tweet.
Chandy said while the Centre paid for the earlier evacuations, “we are paying for their travel” this time.
The squabble came in the wake of Modi facing criticism from the opposition parties for comparing Kerala to Africa’s Somalia while talking about infant mortality rate among tribals in the southern state.