Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan's tour of flood-devastated Sangli district has landed the five-term BJP MLA in an embarrassing position, after a video released by news agency ANI showed him posing for selfies and smiling and waving cheerfully while he was inspecting a district in which thousands have been displaced and entire roads and villages inundated.
One of the worst-hit districts in Maharashtra, fourteen people died in Sangli yesterday after a boat engaged in rescue work overturned. As many as 12 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been dispatched to the region and more than 50,000 have been evacuated so far.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis conducted an aerial survey of flood-hit districts yesterday and described the situation as "very grim".
The Chief Minister, who cut short his "Maha Jan Aadesh Yatra", a month-long outreach programme ahead of elections in the state, also chaired a review meeting in Mumbai that was attended by Girish Mahajan, who is also the state water resources minister.
The minister's selfie and cheerful demeanour during his flood inspection has been criticised by Twitter users, with one person even warning the Chief Minister that this could "definitely affect u in upcoming elections"; Maharashtra state polls are scheduled for later this year.
Their minister Girish Mahajan is on flood tourism. Is sharing selfies n self videos in flood affected areas. Height of insensitivity. @Dev_Fadnavis this will definitely affect u in upcoming elections.— Amit Daundkar (@amit_daundkar) August 9, 2019
Another user hit out at Mr Mahajan for "enjoying (a) free boat ride".
Amazing Girish Mahajan sir ..????????????????????????— Pushkar Jog (@jogpushkar) August 9, 2019
Take a bow . U will get the best selfie video award soon ????????????????????
Another hit out at "selfie BJP Minister" and said such ministers should be "dethroned from their posts".
Selfie BJP Minister, Mr. Girish Mahajan, was seen smiling, waving to people, while riding the rescue boat during floods in kolhapur where 16 ppl died due to overflipping of boat. This is shameless & such ministers should be dethroned from their posts. @narendramodi@Dev_Fadnavis— Prithviraj Maske (@PrithvirajM25) August 9, 2019
Mr Mahajan's actions have also invited criticism from the opposition, with NCP leader Dhananjay Munde saying Chief Minister Fadnavis ought to take action against the "insensitive minister".
"Minister @girishdmahajan and officials were smiled, posed selfie. Are the rulers left with any sensitivity?@Dev_Fadnavis ji take resignation of this insensitive minister, suspend the officials concerned," Mr Munde wrote in Hindi.
Girish Mahajan's 'flood selfie' raises memories of a similar action by another BJP leader and minister - Pankaja Munde - who was criticised for a selfie while visiting drought-hit Marathwada district in April 2016.
Ms Munde, who was the rural development minister (a portfolio she still holds), was at a village in the Latur region to review desilting work in a nearby river when she stopped to click a selfie. Her action came under attack from both opposition members and BJP ally Shiv Sena.
In response to the criticism, Ms Munde said she only took the picture to celebrate seeing water in what had earlier been a dried-up river.
With inputs from ANI, PTI