A new day, a new gaffe. Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s ineptitude and lack of sensitivity were on display again on Friday as he read out a written statement soon after question hour in the Rajya Sabha on the alleged rape and murder of three minor siblings in a village in Bhandara in Maharashtra. What happened? He mentioned the names of the three children. As per law, rape victims/survivors can’t be identified.
The faux pas didn’t slip past an alert opposition. After it raised a hue and cry at the impropriety, Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari had the relevant portion mentioning the names expunged from the records of the House.
The harm, though, was already done. Shinde had stepped into a minefield of tactlessness and embarrassment one more time.
His gaffe was amplified by his ministry, which issued his statement at 1.58pm, more than 90 minutes after the furore played out in the House.
Shinde’s statement must have passed through many senior officials, including the home secretary and the IAS-cadre official in the minister’s own office before Shinde read it out. Obviously, the officials at every stage just failed to notice the glaring indiscretion.
Many opposition leaders pointed out that though the official in the ministry of home affairs who had prepared the statement made the first mistake of naming the victims — and who will perhaps be pulled up and shifted out after the furore — it is amply clear that Shinde cannot blame it on the ministry minion.
Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said in the House, the minister is responsible for his statements and the buck cannot be passed on to an official.
Shinde, cannot, however be hauled up and penalised as would have been the case if such a statement had been made at any other public forum. He escapes legal censure because of the immunity enjoyed by a member of Parliament for what s/he says on the floor of the legislature.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury termed as “very unfortunate and shocking” the home minister naming the victims.