Amid rising COVID-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh, state home minister and BJP leader Narottam Mishra on Wednesday caused a flutter saying he doesn't wear a face mask in any programme.
However, as the Congress attacked him, the minister later tempered his remarks, saying he cannot continue to wear a face mask for a long time due to a medical condition.
"I don't wear a mask in any programmes. 'Isme kya hota hai?' (so what)," the home minister told reporters when they asked him why he was not wearing a mask at a function here.
Mishra was in Indore to participate in a programme for distribution of assistance under the state government's Sambal Yojana, which provides social security cover to the poor and the SC and ST communities.
However, Mishra's cabinet colleagues Tulsiram Silawat and other BJP leaders, who also attended the event, were wearing masks.
The Congress launched a pointed attack, asking are COVID-19 norms meant only for the common people.
"Is there anyone who has the courage to take action against him (Mishra). Are rules only for common people?" Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesman Narendra Saluja tweeted.
As his remarks drew fire, the home minister told reporters in Bhopal, "I normally wear a mask but I can't sport it for a long time, as I am suffering from Polypus and if I wear a mask it leads to suffocation".
Indore is among the worst-hit districts in Madhya Pradesh which has reported 20,834 COVID-19 cases and 516 fatalities so far.
An Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) official said the civic body penalises people without masks with Rs 200 fine.
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