Mumbai: State water resources minister Girish Mahajan found himself in hot water after two videos, showing him smiling and waving even as he was in the midst of surveying flood-hit areas of Kolhapur district, surfaced on Friday.
The incident happened just 24 hours after relief and rehabilitation minister Subhash Deshmukh attended a party meeting at Pune, instead of reviewing rescue and relief operations in Kolhapur and Sangli. He was recently seen dancing after the Centre abrogated the provisions of
Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition has demanded the immediate resignation of Mahajan from the cabinet.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the Maharashtra Nav-nirman Sena (MNS) rebuked Mahajan, who in turn, asked them "not to politicise flood relief work".
Alleging that the BJP minister was on a 'disaster trek’, the NCP also asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to seek the resignation of the 'insensitive' water resources minister.
The Congress launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP, saying it should start a 'selfie with dead' series, with the minister as its brand ambassador.
In one of the clips, an unidentified person accompanying Mahajan is seen shooting a selfie video as they are coursing through waterlogged areas of Kolhapur in western Maharashtra and Mahajan can be seen cheerily waving. In another clip, Mahajan is seen inspecting the flood situation standing on a road, even as another is filming.
Hitting out at the government, NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged this was not disaster management, but "disaster tourism". "They (ruling BJP) are only bothered about campaigning. People of the state are watching and will teach the BJP a lesson," Malik said.
His party colleague Dhananjay Munde echoed his view. "Minister @ girishdmahajan and officials smiled, posed for selfies. Don't the rulers have any sensitivity left?
@Dev_Fadnavisji, demand the resignation of this insensitive minister, suspend the officials concerned," Munde tweeted.
Expressing grief over the death of a child due to floods, leader of the opposition in the state legislative council Munde wondered whether Mahajan felt ashamed of his approach to the situation.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant tweeted, "Girish Mahajan is the face that reflects the character, ideology and identity of this government.
One which seeks pleasure in making MLAs defect, show guns to children, dances frenziedly, fights and laughs wickedly at the tears of others! Now start a #selfiewithdead series and declare Mahajan as the Ambassador."
MNS chief Raj Thackeray too lashed out. "The situation in Western Maharashtra is grave. The chief minister and other ministers are only conducting aerial surveys.
Girish Mahajan is taking selfies. And they all do these things because they know they are going to get elected. This is a sort of arrogance," Thackeray alleged at a party event here.
In the meantime, Mahajan, who reached the flood-ravaged parts of Sangli, hit out at the opposition, saying they should participate in relief work instead of criticising and trolling him from the comfort of their homes.
"Reached today in villages which did not receive relief over the past four days. I request those opposition leaders who politicise relief work, that once they are done with entertainment, by criticising-trolling, they should directly partake in the relief work!" he tweeted.
Parts of Maharashtra, particularly Sangli and Kolhapur districts, have been gripped by devastating floods for the last one week, following heavy rainfall in the region.
As of Thursday, over two lakh people have been evacuated to safer places in the flood-ravaged districts.
In March 2015 too, Mahajan had courted controversy, when he was seen with a gun tucked at his waist as he attended a function for differently-abled schoolchildren in his home district of Jalgaon in North Maharashtra. Clarifying, he had said he carried a gun for 'self-defence'.