‘Missing’ poster of Gautam Gambhir put up by AAP MLA&nbsp

New Delhi: Even as pollution levels peaked in Delhi on Friday and the people of the national capital gasped for breath, politics peaked over the matter after senior officials of the Environment Ministry, the Delhi Development Authority and municipal commissioners reportedly skipped a key meeting of a parliamentary panel. The panel was meeting to discuss the pressing issue of severe pollution in Delhi.

Among those who stayed away from the meeting was former cricketer and BJP MP from East Delhi, Gautam Gambhir. The BJP leader is in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, for the first Test between India and Bangladesh at the Holkar Cricket Stadium. He is an official commentator for the series.

Gambhir particularly faced flak after he retweeted a tweet of colleague VVS Laxman wherein the duo was seen along with broadcaster Jatin Sapru enjoying a local cuisine for breakfast. “Kabhi pohe se teekhe, kabhi jalebi se meethe … a wonderful start to the day in Indoor, where we had breakfast outdoor,” Laxman’s tweet read.

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said MP Gambhir knew about the agenda for today’s meeting but he still chose to skip.

“Agenda for today’s meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee was circulated a week back and clearly stated air pollution in NCR-Delhi. MP from East Delhi Gautam Gambhir was missing. Is the seriousness related to pollution restricted only to commentary box?” the party asked on Twitter.

Nagendar Sharma, the media advisor to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, also slammed Gambhir for skipping the meeting.

“Agenda for today’s meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development was circulated a week back and clearly stated air pollution in NCR-Delhi. Only four MPs were present. Obviously Gautam Gambhir is a celebrity and photo with a mask gets so much attention. Why bother?” Sharma wrote on Twitter.

AAP Jangpura MLA Praveen Kumar even went to the extent of putting up a poster of Gambhir. “MISSING! Have you seen this man? Last seen eating jalebi and poha with friends in Indore. Please – information needed,” the poster read.

Another AAP leader Raghav Chadha called the cancellation of the parliamentary panel meeting due to the absence of officials and MPs as criminal negligence.

“Parliamentary standing committee meet on pollution gets cancelled as BJP run MCDs, BJP run DDA, MOEF bureaucrats reporting to BJP run Union Govt and BJP MPs (including Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir) fail to turn up.

“This shows their criminal negligence and apathy towards air pollution issue. All these bureaucrats should (be) suspended with immediate effect and proceedings should be initiated against BJP MPs who bunked.

“In addition to this, all bureaucrats & MPs who bunked the meeting should be removed from the comforts of air purified rooms, made to stand outside all day long, at a hotspot, so that they realize the gravity of the situation,” the AAP national spokesperson tweeted.

AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj said they could expect Gambhir to act in the manner.

“Parliamentary Committee meeting notice date 8 Nov was well in advance. Gautam Gambhir – You had 7 days to eat Jalebi & poha. Expected from someone who could use body double for Election campaigning,” he tweeted.

Assam Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi also slammed the Delhi MPs and officials for skipping the meeting even as their city continued to suffer due to air pollution.

“Sad to see the Parliament of India not taking the health of our children more seriously. I’ve decided to protest outside Parliament on 18 Nov, Monday to ensure that people’s voice is heard inside the temple of democracy,” Gogoi wrote on Twitter.

Following widespread criticism of his action, Gambhir issued a statement to defend himself and blamed Kejriwal and his aides for the false propaganda against him.

“My commitment to my constituency and my city should be judged by the work that is happening there. I have not entered politics to make money but I do have a family to support. Making my commercial engagements (which were entered into before I had become an MP) an issue to mask the incompetence and political greed of their leader, is the saddest thing that the party, which claims to represent honest people, could do. But I have complete faith in the people of my constituency, my city and my country. They will judge me by my work and not by the propaganda and false narrative spread by the minions of the ‘honest CM’ of Delhi,” Gambhir said in the statement.

Coming forward to defend Gambhir, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said the MP is busy with a family function. “AAP is accountable for the problem of pollution in Delhi. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal needs to answer. There is a marriage function in Gambhir’s family; he is busy for 3-4 days,” Tiwari said.

He added that Kejriwal should be ashamed for blaming MPs for the problem of air pollution in Delhi, adding that the CM should give the charge of the city to the parliamentarians.