Senior Congress leader and Assembly Speaker N Sakthan has landed in a controversy after he asked his driver to remove the straps of his footwear.
The incident occurred during a function held in connection with the harvesting of paddy cultivated inside the Assembly garden yesterday in which the Speaker took part.
The driver removed the straps of the Speaker’s sandals before he ventured into shredding the straw of paddy. The Assembly employees had cultivated paddy at a small piece of land at the assembly compound as a gesture towards promoting farming.
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After inaugurating the paddy harvesting, the speaker wanted to shred the straw. The driver was seen removing the straps in the presence of the assembly employees.
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Visuals aired by television channels this morning showed the speaker’s driver, squatting on the floor and putting on the straps of Sakthan’s sandals as many people looked on.
As the issue triggered widespread protest, Sakthan said he had sought the driver’s help to remove the strap of his chapel on health grounds.
“Due to optic nerve disorder, I have been advised not to bend forward or lift heavy objects,” said Sakthan.
However, the speaker had bent his body forward to harvest the paddy. Sakthan defended himself saying that harvesting required only slight bending of the body.
The speaker said only harvesting was scheduled in the program. “When I was asked to join shredding of straw with bare foot, I had to seek the help of my assistant,” said Sakthan.
State Agriculture Minister K P Mohanan had also attended the function.
The controversy has put the ruling Congress-led UDF in a spot as the LDF opposition will most likely use the incident as an opportunity to put the Front on the mat during the civic polls next month.
In a similar incident in August, Maharashtra Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde landed in controversy after a member of her staff was seen carrying her slippers during her tour of drought-affected regions in the state.
With PTI inputs