Mahesh’s act lowered RS dignity, says Def Ministry

Mahesh’s act lowered RS dignity, says Def Ministry

Chennai: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses during the 10th anniversary of the centre for China studies, in Chennai on Friday, June 08, 2018. PTI

A day after Karnataka Tourism Minister Sa Ra Mahesh had a spat with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the BJP-led government at the Centre accused him of lowering the dignity of the Rajya Sabha.

The Ministry of Defence issued a statement in New Delhi stating that Mahesh’s remarks had showed “utter lack of regard and knowledge about Indian Polity”.

Sitharaman, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, was on a tour to flood-affected Kodagu district on Friday. She had a spat with Mahesh and her remarks expressing displeasure against Mahesh at the deputy commissioner’s office in Kodagu were telecast by TV channels.

The spat started when Mahesh interrupted Sitharaman’s meeting with some retired soldiers. He pointed out that if the defence minister ended the meeting early, the district officials, who were present at the meeting, would be able to go back and arrange relief for the people displaced by floods. Sitharaman lost her cool and shot back at Mahesh. The defence minister said she had been touring the district and attending meetings according to the schedule that had been fixed earlier by the district administration. She also said that it was unbelievable that she was abiding by what the state minister was saying notwithstanding the fact that she was a Union minister.

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“In spite of (the) district administration finalising the programme and (the) RM (Defence Minister) following the same in its entirety, it is unfortunate that the (state) minister behaved the way he did,” the Ministry of Defence stated in a press release issued in New Delhi.

A section of media quoted Mahesh as saying later that Sitharaman had no idea or understanding about poverty and problems of the common people as she had been a member of the Rajya Sabha and not elected directly by the people to the Lok Sabha. The Ministry of Defence on Saturday alleged that Mahesh’s purported remarks had lowered the dignity of the Upper House. “Subsequently, the personal remarks made against the RM (Defence Minister) were also in bad taste, which do not merit a response,” the MoD stated.

The MoD stated that the programme of the defence minister had been finalised by the district administration in consultation with the public representatives.

“This programme was approved and circulated to all concerned two days prior to 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 (Sitharaman) was interacting with ex-servicemen who had been adversely affected by the floods, when the district in-charge minister (Mahesh) objected and insisted that meeting with the officials be conducted first,” the MoD stated, adding: “(The) RM (defence minister) 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.”

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The MoD said that while it was extremely unfortunate, in order to avoid the situation from deteriorating, Sitharaman 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 the officials were hurriedly summoned to sit among the mediapersons for the review. It was unprecedented to hold a meeting with the officials, with all the mediapersons present, it alleged.

The MoD alleged that the use of the term “parivar” by the Defence Minister during the press conference was “grossly misrepresented”.

“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,” it added.