Bangalore: Karnataka's filmstar-minister Ambareesh spent more than one crore rupees on his treatment in a hospital abroad. The tab was picked up by taxpayers.
Ambareesh, who is the state Housing Minister, is being pilloried for claiming medical expenses worth Rs 1.16 crore, which includes bills from Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre - rated among the world's best - and airfare for his family and doctors.
Critics argue that the 62-year-old actor, a towering figure in the Kannada film industry, can afford the bills. He had last declared assets worth 4.3 crore rupees.
Legislators are entitled to reimbursement of up to Rs 7 lakh, but state Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is also in charge of the finance ministry, says he approved Ambareesh's bills as a "special case".
The details of his illness have not been specified.
Media reports have had people bristling at the idea of paying for a minister's treatment at a foreign hospital. "That's a lot of money. And most of our ministers are well off. When the government treats victims of a tragedy, it happens at a government hospital," commented Divya Rao, a resident of Bangalore.
Ambareesh was reportedly advised to seek treatment in Singapore by good friend Rajinikanth, another behemoth in the southern film industry. The Tamil superstar had been treated in this hospital in 2011 for respiratory problems.
The minister has added even more to his medical claim - a five lakh rupee bill from a hospital in Bangalore where he was earlier treated.
The Chief Minister approved this too, without hesitating. "In special cases we can do," he responded to reporters' questions on the fat write-off, pushing a mic away.
Mysteriously, the opposition BJP is not making too much of it.
BJP leader Jagdish Shettar, a former chief minister, said: "See it is for the government to decide. It is not the first time this has happened. I don't want to comment on this."