A plea to support Urdu newspapers through advertisements triggered a race among members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The leaders clamoured to speak for promoting the language, which ended with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee making a pitch for quota for minorities.
The demand for giving Urdu newspapers a fair share of government advertisements was first raised by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. When a few other members rose in his support, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar initially told them to have their names recorded.
Kumar gave in when some members persisted. She allowed them to speak but with each speaker, more hands went up seeking permission to speak.
This included two Union ministers, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Farooq Abdullah. Banerjee walked in later, and joined the others to talk about her love for the language that transcended religions and regions.
Pressing for minority reservations, she said there was need to consider the issue on the lines of SC, ST and OBC quota.
In fact, she participated in the discussion though her party colleague Sudip Bandhopadhyay had already spoken on the issue.
She ended her speech delivered in Hindi with three Urdu couplets thrown in between with the demand for a quota for Muslims, an Urdu university and scholarships for students.
Some BJP members appeared resentful of their political rivals anxiety at making their support heard.
But that ended when BJP deputy leader Gopinath Munde too rose to make common cause with them.
Azad singled out Munde for backing the cause of Urdu; Abdullah patted actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha —Bollywood’s face in the House — for the contribution of the Indian film industry in keeping the language alive.
Responding to the discussion, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee noted that Manmohan Singh’s instructions to ensure that Urdu media “get due share of government-funded advertisements”.