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Kodagu row: Karnataka ministers slam Nirmala Sitharaman; MoD issues clarification

By Deepika

New Delhi, Aug 25: A day after Defence Minister Nirmala Siharaman's controversial visit to the flood-hit Kodagu district of Karnataka, the ministry issued a clarification on her spat with the district in-charge minister Sa Ra Mahesh.

Nirmala Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Karnataka Minister Sa Ra Mahesh were Friday, locked in an exchange of words over her itinerary during a visit to the flood-hit Kodagu district. The entire episode took place in the presence of officials and the media at the district commissioner's office here.

Kodagu: Nirmala Sitharaman pulls up Minister, DC over breach of protocol

In the statement issued by the Ministry of Defence, a section of news channels and social media handles were blamed for attempting to malign the image of Sitharaman. The statement put the onus on the Karnataka state minister for the row which erupted at a press conference in Kodagu on Friday.

Sitharaman said she was meeting the veterans, as per the itinerary planned by the district administration. Mahesh, however, demanded the Defence Minister to immediately call off her interaction with the ex-servicemen and proceed for a meeting with the officials. This forced Sitharaman to publicly mark her angst against the Mahesh.

The MoD statement also clarifies on the usage of word "parivar" by her in the press conference, claiming that she was not referring to her kin but the ex-servicemen, who are considered as the fourth pillar of the defence parivar (family).

Karnataka ministers slam Nirmala Sitharaman

Earlier today, several Karnataka ministers had lashed out at Sitharaman for admonishing Ramesh and expressed disappointment over the incident.

In a tweet, Siddaramaiah also accused the Centre of extending "step-motherly" treatment to Karnataka. "I condemn the stepmotherly treatment by @PMOIndia in releasing relief funds. We expected PM @narendramodi to assess the loss instead it was delegated to @DefenceMinIndia, who was more interested in dominating our state minister. This reflects @BJP4India 's apathy towards Ktaka," he tweeted.

The deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka G Parameshwara tweeted his disapproval saying, "It was disappointing to see you lash out at my colleague." Mr Mahesh on Friday had asked the union defence minister to wind up the press conference at the district commissioner's office, citing lack of time.

"Our ministers have stayed back in Kodagu for weeks to oversee relief operations along with the district administration. You should extend to them the same respect that they extend for the help from your end," the deputy chief minister tweeted.

Read the full statement issued by the Ministry of Defence below:

There have been some reports in the mainstream and social media regarding the visit of the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri (RM) to Kodagu district in Karnataka stating that the RM got angry with the district incharge minister of Kodagu Mr Sa Ra Mahesh during the flood review being taken with the district administration. These reports have also quoted 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.

In order to clarify the matter, it is imperative that a detailed account of the sequence of events is brought out. The tour program of the RM was finalised by the district administration of Kodagu in consultation with the public representatives. This program 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.

On completion of the field visits, as per the program, 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 program.

However, the district minister insisted that the RM immediately stop the interaction and proceed to the meeting with the officials.

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. Inspite 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.

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