Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was recently in Kerala and Tamil Nadu to oversee the rescue operations in the aftermath of cyclone Ockhi in both the south-Indian states.
During her visit, the Union Minister held talks with the Chief Ministers of both the states, and also held meetings with police personnel and Indian Navy officials to discuss the rescue operations.
Now, a controversy is brewing on social media, with many accusing the minister of disrespecting navy officials during one of her meetings. The controversy broke out after a photograph of her meeting with TN's deputy CM O Panneerselvam, navy officials and police personnel on December 3 were shared by the DPR.
In the photograph, a few navy officials were seen standing, while others including the minister sat down for the meeting. Soon, several social media users accused the minister of treating the officials in a poor fashion.
"This is shocking you guys treat like this our officers," said a user.
This doesn't look like 'discussions'. It's like politicians Vs. others , whether a job was done well or not.— SATYA SUNDAR (@satyabbsr) December 4, 2017
Pardon me but, Why are the Naval Officers standing like some thieves in a police station?— ∞ Singh (@Blr_141286) December 5, 2017
Shame on you ma'am. Those are respected naval officers of very high rank not your society chowkidar (whom one would treat better unless you are some sanghi) ,treat them with respect. Why have you made them stand like that?— শেখর (@MangoBwoy) December 4, 2017
BJP have no respect for our armed forces #NavyDay
There is no stubborn campaign as u did on #JayanthiTax. Pics shows ur arrogance and power as minister towards officers— Deepak (@deepakr1616) December 5, 2017
That's no justification. @DefenceMinIndia should respect officers and be courteous. @nsitharaman should not have sat down till the officers were seated. @PMOIndia @narendramodi @nsitharaman is an excellent and fine lady, but I am unable to appreciate this.— Vineet Aggarwal (@vineet66) December 5, 2017
Soon, users even began to compare Nirmala Sitharaman's meeting, to that of meetings chaired by Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan. They shared photographs from the meeting, in which navy officials were seen sitting across the CM during the discussion.
Incidentally, the controversy broke out a day after the Defence Minister visited families of missing fishermen in Vizhinjam (Thiruvananthapuram) and spoke to the families to have faith in the rescue operations. Her intervention had received positive response from many.
After several users began to accuse the Defence Minister, she herself sought to clarify her stand.
Replying to a tweet questioning why senior navy officials were made to stand during the meeting, the Defence Minister's official Twitter handle tweeted that the said pictures were taken at the beginning of the meeting, while the officers were entering the room, and that the minister had called for more chairs to be brought to the room.
"Shri Srivatsa, your concern is absolutely justified. In this case however, picture taken is right at the beginning of officers entering the room. As soon as RM @nsitharaman saw officers standing, she directed bringing chairs & the officers were seated for rest of the meeting," the Defence Minister’s official Twitter handle replied.
Shri Srivatsa, your concern is absolutely justified. In this case however, picture taken is right at the beginning of officers entering the room. As soon as RM @nsitharaman saw officers standing,she directed bringing chairs & the officers were seated for rest of the meeting— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) December 4, 2017
Following this, the minister tweeted from her personal account saying that she was not lying about what had happened, calling it a "stubborn campaign" against her.
Sorry, there is absolutely no lying. I started my conversation even as I had asked for chairs. Photos from different sides were taken even as all this was happening. @DefenceMinIndia @IndiaCoastGuard @indiannavy— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) December 5, 2017
Sorry expect you to see my replies to this stubborn campaign.— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) December 5, 2017
Please be assured that there is no way we shall let our officers being disrespected. We can never thank them enough for the sacrifices they make. Jai Hind!— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) December 4, 2017