Reacting to the controversy over the participation of a public relation professional, Smitha Menon, in an event for foreign ministers in Dubai, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan told the media on Friday that her participation was not in violation of any protocols. Incidentally, Smitha Menon is also the president of BJP’s Kerala unit of Mahila Morcha, and there were allegations that the Union Minister from Kerala had breached protocols by helping Smita participate in the international event along with him.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association Council of Ministers was held in Abu Dhabi in November 2019. The Council of Foreign Ministers (COM), which is the apex body of IORA, is held every year. The admission to the event is reportedly only to some invitees along with the ministers.
Reacting to the controversy, Smitha said that she participated in the event as a media person, although she works for a PR company. She also said that she took part in the event as part of her job and by spending money from her own pocket.
The controversy started last week when Saleem Madavur, Loktantrik Yuva Janata Dal national president, had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that Muraleedharan breached the protocol and also demanded an inquiry on Smitha’s participation in the conference. Some media channels had run a photo of an event where Smitha could be seen sitting behind Muraleedharan on the stage. However, it is not clear if it is from the same event.
In a Facebook post, Smitha had said that she wanted to report an international business conference and found this event a good opportunity. “I sought permission from Minister Muraleedharan after he enquired whether media persons were allowed at the conference,” she said, adding that she did not misuse any facilities and that she stayed with her brother in Dubai.
When the controversy started, there were also allegations that Muraleedharan helped Smitha get the post in BJP’s Mahila Morcha. However, K Surendran, BJP state president, said it was he who suggested her name to the post and not Muraleedharan. He also said that Smitha is not new to the party and that she came from a pro-sangh parivar family.
Surendran also alleged that there was no protocol violation in her participation at the event. There were also reports that the Prime Minister's office had sought inquiry over the issue. However, K Surendran has denied this.