On Saturday, a day after Sitharaman pulled up the Kamareddy District Collector over photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi not being displayed at PDS shops, TRS supporters at several places put up photographs of the PM on LPG cylinders, prominently displaying the cost at Rs 1,105. Party supporters also took to social media to post images of the PM while pointing to the prices of essential commodities.
On Friday, while inspecting ration shops at Birkur village in Zaheerabad parliamentary constituency as part of the BJP’s Lok Sabha Pravas Yojana, Sitharaman asked the beneficiaries, “How much do you pay for a kilo of rice that costs Rs 35 in the market?” When some of them replied “Re 1”, she turned to Collector Jitesh V Patil and asked him how much of the remaining Rs 34 was borne by the state.
As the Collector begins to respond, Sitharaman said, “Collector, you give the answer with clarity. You are the officer of the Indian Administrative Service belonging to the Telangana cadre… Would you want to think about your answer? You think about it within half-an-hour before my address to the media. I can tell them that even if the Collector could not answer immediately, he struggled and got the information.”
She then goes on to tell him that the PDS rice costs Rs 35 per kg, out of which the Centre bears the subsidy cost of Rs 29, the state Rs 5 and the people Re 1.
I am appalled by the unruly conduct of FM @nsitharaman today with District Magistrate/Collector of Kamareddy
These political histrionics on the street will only demoralise hardworking AIS officers
My compliments to @Collector_KMR Jitesh V Patil, IAS on his dignified conduct ??
— KTR (@KTRTRS) September 2, 2022
“From March-April 2020, the Centre has not even been taking the Re 1 from the people or the Rs 3 or 4 from the state,” she says, adding: “The Union government is bearing the cost… Modi sarkar… Despite giving everything for free, despite not charging for transportation or storage, despite giving it free during the pandemic, when asked to put a flex of the pradhani (PM)… not just here, but in all of Telangana, they are not letting it happen. They created drama, tore the flex… This is the work the PM is doing for his people.”
The minister then asks the Collector to ensure that the PM’s photo is displayed prominently on ration shops in the district. “Our people will come here and install the flex. You, as the district administrator, will ensure that it shall not be removed, that it shall not be torn,” she said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Collector Patil said he did not feel intimidated or threatened by Sitharaman. “She sought some data on PDS, which I didn’t have at that time. She said she will wait for half an hour for me to produce the data, but she moved on,’’ he said.
– Under PMGKAY, entire cost on 5kg foodgrains given free is borne by Modi Govt
– Under NFSA, more than 80% of cost of foodgrains is borne by the Modi Govt
Is there any objection to poster/banner of PM Modi being displayed at ration shops?
— NSitharamanOffice (@nsitharamanoffc) September 2, 2022
Reacting to the incident, IT Minister K T Rama Rao tweeted on Friday, saying he was appalled by Sitharaman’s “unruly conduct”, and that “political histrionics on the street would demoralise hardworking IAS officers”. He also complimented the District Collector on his “dignified conduct”.
On Saturday, Sitharaman visited other areas of the Lok Sabha constituency and interacted with people.
In the evening, she, along with other BJP leaders, addressed a press conference, where, when asked about the incident, she reportedly said, “I am not here to judge the conduct of any collector. My language to the collector was not objectionable or unparliamentary. Anyone who thinks it was not right or if my language was objectionable. It is their opinion.”
However, ahead of the conference, local BJP leaders allegedly asked representatives of Telangana Today, Namaste Telangana, and T News to leave the venue.