Congress questions Sambit Patra’s presence at govt meet; gets schooled

Netizens said Patra heads a government tourism body & hence is authorised to attend official meetings

NEW DELHI | Updated: 30 May, 2023 10:31 am IST
This photo was tweeted by Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera.

NEW DELHI: “Ill-informed” Congress found itself in an embarrassing situation on Monday after it questioned the presence of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sambit Patra at a recent high-level meeting chaired by Union home minister Amit Shah.

On Twitter, senior Congress spokesmen Pawan Khera and Jairam Ramesh on Monday night said Patra – the fiery BJP spokesperson – was not supposed to attend the home minister’s meeting over the Manipur violence as he does not hold any official position.

“How can Sambit Patra attend this official meeting chaired by the Home Minister in Imphal?” Khera tweeted. Endorsing his statement, his senior & former Union minister Jairam Ramesh shot another tweet: “Good question. He is just a party functionary.”

However, netizens were quick to criticize the Congress leaders for their lack of research before making such claims, pointing out that Patra is the chairman of the India tourism development corporation (ITDC), which operates under the ministry of tourism.

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The meeting, held in Imphal, was attended by chief minister N Biren Singh, minister of state (MoS) for Home Nityanand Rai, and state Cabinet ministers.

Calling the Congress leaders “ill-informed”, many Twitter users responded with a barrage of counter questions and pictures from the time of the UPA rule, highlighting instances when Congress leaders engaged in official meetings even though they did not hold any official position in the government.

Several users shared an old picture of Sonia Gandhi holding a delegation-level bilateral meeting with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister (now President) Ranil Wickremesinghe. While Sonia Gandhi – who is often criticized for running a “remote control” government for 10 years when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister – sat beside the then Sri Lanka PM as the leader of Indian delegation, then PM Singh, then MP Rahul Gandhi, and then Union minister Anand Singh sitting in a row in front of Sonia as delegation members.

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Notably, Sonia Gandhi never held any position in the government, though she was the chairman of the political alliance ruling the Centre: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Rules say such delegations are led by authorized government officials.

Users also reminded Congress of past incidents like Rahul Gandhi tearing an ordinance passed by the Union Cabinet and Rajiv Gandhi taking his family on government-funded vacations, even on naval ships.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah, who started his three-day Manipur visit on Monday, reviewed the prevailing situation post widespread violence and met with all stakeholders to restore peace and communal harmony in the state.

During the cabinet meeting attended by Shah, rehabilitation and resettlement plans for the affected families were discussed.

More than 60 people have been killed, around 250 injured and 1,700 houses, including religious places, burnt in the ethnic violence.

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