India cannot afford a part-time Defence Minister, Congress tells Modi

The Congress Party on Monday said that it would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to ensure that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spends more time in the national capital instead of travelling to Goa “every other day”.

Objecting to Mr. Parrikar’s frequent trips to Goa, Congress spokesperson Sunil Kavthankar said that India “cannot afford a part-time Defence Minister”.

The demand by the Pradesh Congress Committee comes within a day of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanding that the Prime Minister ask Mr. Parrikar to focus on his job as Defence Minister instead of “making comments on [the] health issues of other individuals”.

Mr. Parrikar is facing the ire of Opposition parties after his comment about Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at a party workers’ meet on Saturday, and his presence in Goa “when terrorist strikes in Kashmir are growing”.

“Our concern is that when attacks like the one in Uri happened, Mr. Parrikar rushed to Delhi. He spent crucial time — around two to two-and-a-half hours in a commercial aircraft — flying to Delhi, which could have been utilised for taking quick decisions. That is the time when quick orders are required,” Mr. Kawthankar said, charging Mr. Parrikar of meddling in Goan politics, instead of focussing on the country’s defence.

Taking a dig at Mr. Parrikar’s known fondness for Goan food, the Congress spokesperson added, “If Mr. Parrikar misses Goan fish and food, he should hire a cook and take him to Delhi with him. He should know that he is not the leader of Opposition, or Goa’s Chief Minister, anymore.”

Mr. Parrikar, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and former Goa Chief Minister, is credited with the party’s previous assembly election victory. On Saturday, he declared before party workers that he would travel around Goa during the run-up to the 2017 State Assembly polls, as he had done ahead of the 2012 polls.

Raising the subject of the Uri attacks, Mr. Kavthankar said that the Congress would not politicise the matter and would fully back the government on security issues, but also criticised Mr. Modi’s diplomacy with Pakistan.

“Instead of exchanging saris as gifts with Pakistan [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif and his family like he did last time, Mr. Modi should either retaliate promptly to the killing of 17 soldiers, or wear a sari and go to Pakistan himself,” said Mr. Kavthankar.

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