It was supposed to be a personal meeting between Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. But the meeting that was keenly being watched by the media became a big snub for the Deputy Chief Minister.
On Tuesday afternoon, O Panneerselvam, flanked by leaders like KP Munusamy and Manoj Pandian spoke to the media at the Tamil Nadu Bhavan and announced that he was going to meet the Defence Minister. “This is not a political visit. I have come to meet and pay my respects to Hon'ble Nirmala Sitharaman. She did a big favour for me by providing an air ambulance for my brother when he had taken ill to enable him to get to Chennai from Madurai. I have come to convey my heartfelt gratitude to her,” he said.
But at 2.44pm, the office of Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted that the Minister had met only AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan and not OPS. “Appointment was given to Shri V Maitreyan, MP, Rajya Sabha. Deputy CM of Tamil Nadu has not met Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman,” the tweet said.
So what changed? Why did Nirmala Sitharaman not meet OPS? Or did OPS not have an appointment with the minister?
Sources in the AIADMK confirmed to TNM that it was indeed Maitreyan who sought the appointment with the Defence Minister, but it was on OPS’ behalf. “He is a Deputy CM and when he has come all the way from Chennai to Delhi; do you think we would not have taken an appointment for him? Maitreyan took the appointment. If the Defence Minister had not planned to meet OPS, why were his car details taken by officials at South Block, where her office is based out of?” the source asked.
According to the AIADMK leader who did not want to be named, Maitreyan and OPS reached the South Block post at 2pm and sat in the waiting room in the Minister’s office. Soon, Maitreyan received a call from the Minister’s office and only he was allowed inside her chamber.
Though Maitreyan refused to comment, another AIADMK leader told TNM that OPS simply sat in the waiting room for around twenty minutes and then went back after Maitreyan finished his meeting. The meeting between Maitreyan and Nirmala Sitharaman was not a cordial one either.
“We don’t know what she is upset about. Maybe it is because he spoke about the air ambulance. But everyone knows that a military air ambulance was given for OPS’ brother. He is a Deputy CM of a state who had flown down only to see her. This was disappointing,” the source said.
However, sources in the BJP maintain that there was no appointment given to OPS.