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Minister's contribution falls prey to Congress-NCP disaster politics

So, while the state government is offering assistance to pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand, it has meticulously avoided highlighting the contributions of one of its own ministers who has been camping there for the past five days.

Suresh Dhas, sworn in as minister of state for relief and rehabilitation on June 11, rushed to Uttarakhand on June 20 to provide help to pilgrims from Maharashtra and has been staying in Dehradun since then. But the Democratic Front government here, headed by Congress CM Prithviraj Chavan, has been glossing over his role.

“We can’t reveal reasons behind skirting mention of Dhas’s contribution in the govt press releases issued by directorate general of information and public relations (DGIPR) the state arm to assist media persons,” say officials. Maharashtra, that allegedly woke up rather late in ferrying back its citizens and tendering any help, is busy garnering media attention since June 21 with regular press releases on pilgrims in Uttarakhand and measures taken for their safe return.

The government release issued on the same day speaks about a team of 50 officials from the state specially deputed to assist pilgrims and says CM Prithviraj Chavan was personally in touch with them and reviewing the situation from time to time. But, there’s no allusion to Dhas. Chavan reached New Delhi on June 22 and started supervising the state’s operations by visiting a control room specially set up at Maharashtra Sadan.

The announcement again has no mention of the MoS. Subsequent releases about state’s efforts in hiring two choppers, providing Rs 10 crore for rescue work and transportation of pilgrims, also did not allude to the minister.

On June 23, the CM could not land in Dehradun owing to bad weather. This was prominently cited in the press release issued by the state information centre in Delhi and DGIPR, as well as the CM’s office. But again, there was deafening silence on the MoS. Finally, it was in the release about the CM’s media briefing on Sunday evening that Dhas found a mention in the fifth paragraph with just a single sentence about his stay in the Uttarakhand capital.

When probed, a senior official from the Mantralaya said it was essentially the responsibility of the control room of the state relief and rehabilitation department to forward inputs with the MoS’s name. But, sources say, the CM may not have approved his NCP colleague’s tour officially, they say. The sources added that the MoS left after informing the state protocol department, which facilitates ministers’ tours.

When contacted, Dhas said ever since he reached Dehradun he has been in constant touch with the CM, deputy CM Ajit Pawar and home minister RR Patil. He expressed surprise over reports of his ‘unofficial’ visit.  

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