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Defence ministry says Karnataka minister Mahesh’s remarks against Sitharaman ‘in bad taste’

The Ministry of Defence described Karnataka’s district incharge minister of Kodagu Sa Ra Mahesh’s behaviour as ‘unfortunate’.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2018 20:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala sitharaman,Defence ministry,Karnataka
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman visits the flood-affected areas to review situations, in Kodagu.(PTI Photo)

The Ministry of Defence on Saturday said Karnataka’s district incharge minister of Kodagu Sa Ra Mahesh’s personal remarks against Union minister defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday were in bad taste, which do not merit a response.

“The district incharge minister who has made certain personal remarks against the RM. The remarks have also lowered the dignity of the upper house of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and show utter lack of regard and knowledge about the Indian polity,” the MoD said in a statement.

Sitharaman was visiting flood-hit Kodagu on Friday.

The MoD said Sitharaman’s tour programme was finalised by the district administration of Kodagu in consultation with the public representatives. “This programme was approved and circulated to all concerned two days prior to Raksha Mantri’s (RM’s) arrival. Subsequently, on the request of the district administration, an interaction with the veterans was added to the schedule,” it said.

“On completion of the field visits, as per the programme, RM was interacting with ex-servicemen who had been adversely affected by the floods, when the District incharge minister objected and insisted that meeting with the officials be conducted first. RM clarified that welfare of ex-servicemen was an essential part of the Ministry of Defence and the same was scheduled in the programme. However, the district minister insisted that the RM immediately stop the interaction and proceed to the meeting with the officials,” the statement said.

The MoD also said that a meeting with officials who were asked sit with media to review the flood situation was ‘unprecedented’.

“While it was extremely unfortunate, in order to avoid the situation from deteriorating, RM immediately halted the meeting and proceeded to the venue of the meeting with the officials. The venue was already set up for the press conference and hurriedly the officials were summoned to sit among the mediapersons for the review. It was unprecedented to hold a meeting with the officials, with all the mediapersons present.”

The RM then heard the grievances of the waiting ex-servicemen, the MoD said and described Mahesh’s behaviour as ‘unfortunate’.

“In spite of district administration finalising the program and RM following the same in its entirety it is unfortunate that the minister behaved the way he did. Subsequently, the personal remarks made against the RM were also in bad taste, which do not merit a response.

“It has also been noted that there has been gross misrepresentation with regard to the use of the term ‘parivar’ by the RM during the press conference. One of the four departments of the Ministry of Defence is the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare and in that context it was stated that all ex-servicemen are part of the MoD ‘parivar’. Any other inference is misconstrued and uncalled for,” the MoD said.

Ahead of the MoD’s statement, Sitharaman’s fracas with Mahesh escalated on Saturday after Karnataka’s deputy chief minister G Parameshwara sprang to his colleague’s defence and reminded her that state representatives are in no way “inferior” to those of the Centre.

Sitharaman had lost her cool on Friday, when Kodagu district in-charge minister Sa Ra Mahesh said that a number of government officials were waiting to meet her. “I am following a minute-to-minute programme... Central minister follows the minister in-charge here. Unbelievable!” she snapped.

Hours after the spat, Mahesh told mediapersons that he had only asked Sitharaman to attend to the officials first so they could go about with rehabilitation work. “I pointed out that the meeting with the waiting officials would take hardly five minutes, and she could continue with her other engagements after that,” he said.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 18:07 IST