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'Defence ministry undermined in NDA regime'

IANS  |  Panaji 

A collage of patched images showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi inking the Rafale fighter jet deal in France and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurating a mobile fish stall in Panaji on the same day has gone viral on the social media.

This has allowed the opposition to allege that the defence ministry has been undermined in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

On Friday, when national media and political commentators looked forward to the summit meeting between the Indian prime minister and French President Francois Hollande and Modi's signing off on 36 Rafale fighters deal, Parrikar, the former Goa chief minister, inaugurated a government-operated fish stall in Panaji.

Independent MLA from Fatorda Vijai Sardesai was one of the first to take a crack at the contrasting developments.

"#Modi to seal deal with #Hollande @#France for 40 Rafale jets, DefMinister@manoharparrikar busy launching fish stall!" Sardesai tweeted.

"It's quite evident now that PM Modi might have understood that Parrikar is not serious about a very crucial and sensitive department of Union of India like Defence Ministry," Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat said in an official statement issued here.

The Congress leader also said the defence minister was running a parallel government in Goa during his weekend trips to the state.

"Our allegation is that Chief Minister of Goa Laxmikant Parsekar is being reduced to a puppet as far as running the state is concerned. Parrikar should stop interfering in the administration of the state as it lowers the dignity of a ministry as elite as Defence," the statement said.

The image posted on social media, blends Parrikar's photograph holding a mid-sized chonak (giant sea perch) with Modi's image, which contrastingly shows the prime minister making an assertive point and shots of the Rafale fighter plane in flight.

The photo soon went viral on Facebook with users on popular groups like Goa Speaks making their point, some of them, sarcastically.

A city based lawyer Gautam Bhagat said that Parrikar is being subjected to the same treatment which he meted out to his council of ministers, when Parrikar was a chief minister and known for his hands-on approach vis a vis all ministries.

"Mr. Modi is intruding and giving less scope to ministries like External Affairs, Defence etc. Like how Bhai (Parrikar) kept control over major ministries and corporations when he was CM of Goa," Bhagat said.

Parrikar, who has been in Goa for the last couple of days, refused to offer comment to reporters, when queried about the Rafale deal on late Friday evening.

Defence ministry officials requesting anonymity, however, said it was unfair to drag Parrikar into the controversy.

"The deal is being signed by the Prime Minister for the Government of India. It would be unfair to expect a comment from the Defence Minister on any issue related to the Rafale deal."

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First Published: Sat, April 11 2015. 08:28 IST