Gambhir Skips Meet to Tackle Air Pollution for Jalebi in Indore, AAP Kicks up Row

Gambhir, who has attacked AAP time and again for not being able to tackle the pollution crisis, defended his "commercial engagements". Only four MPs of a 28-member parliamentary panel attended the key meeting.

New Delhi: BJP MP Gautam Gambhir landed in a soup on social media on Friday after the East Delhi MP skipped a parliamentary panel set up to discuss the air pollution crisis in Delhi-NCR, opting instead to head to an eatery in Indore to kickstart his day.

As such, only four MPs of a 28-member parliamentary panel attended the scheduled key meeting.

Top officials of the environment ministry, DDA and municipal commissioners also stayed away from the deliberations. The absence of Gambhir, the lone BJP leader from Delhi in the committee, snowballed into a political row as the AAP hit out at the saffron party over the issue and questioned its seriousness in tackling the crisis.

The political catfight started after cricketer V.V.S. Laxman tweeted photos of Gambhir and him in Indore eating jalebis and poha on Friday morning. Both Gambhir and Laxman are in Indore as commentators for the first Test match between India and Bangladesh.

The Aam Aadmi Party accused the Delhi MP of choosing “enjoyment” over a meeting to tackle the severe concerns the national capital region is facing over the air quality crisis.

AAP also pointed to an earlier tweet from the former cricketer’s handle where on November, 1, the BJP MP had slammed the Kejriwal-led government for not managing to curb pollution levels in Delhi.

Saying while MPs like him were busy “enjoying”, AAP said its Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh attended the meeting. “Gautam Gambhir, is this the level of your seriousness regarding air pollution,” the Arvind Kejriwal-led party questioned.

Besides Singh, the three other MPs who attended the meeting were BJP’s Jagdambika Pal who heads the panel, C.R. Patil of the saffron party and Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference. According to PTI, the members of the panel who attended the meeting were extremely upset with the absence of the environment secretary, the DDA chairman and officials of the three municipal corporations of the national capital and are planning to raise the issue with the Lok Sabha Speaker.

AAP leader Atishi said Gambhir had been notified about the week a week in advance. “Very unfortunate that the Honourable MP couldn’t make time,” she said in a tweet.

On Twitter, #ShameOnGautamGambhir began to trend on Friday evening.

Later in the evening, Gambhir put out a tweet where he said his work would speak for him – he lists out some of the projects he’s working on right at the very beginning – how he has a family to support and how he has “pledged his salary as an MP to get things done that do not fall under the ambit of MPLAD funds”.

He added that if Delhi’s pollution levels came down by abusing him, then the AAP was free to continue to do so.

Attacking AAP, Gambhir said in his note: “Making my commercial engagements an issue to mask the incompetence and greed of their leader is the saddest things that the party, which claims to represent the people, could do.”

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said he will launch a probe to look into the absence of the officials. “We will look into why people didn’t turn up. We are very concerned about the environment. There are challenges and we need to fight together. I’ve always said that joint cooperation is needed,” he said.

An official spokesperson said the environment ministry was represented at the meeting by the deputy secretary and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials, adding that the joint secretary could not attend it as she was to appear in an important matter in Supreme Court.

The spokesperson also said detailed notes were submitted to the urban development ministry.

The national capital has been battling alarming levels of air pollution for the past few weeks. The air quality deteriorated further in the last four days, forcing the authorities to shut schools for two days.

(With inputs from PTI)