Language politics took centrestage in the Lok Sabha on Friday as southern MPs kicked up a row over a hitch in the English translation to a minister’s reply in Hindi.
Trouble started when DMK MPs, led by T.R. Baalu, complained they were not getting the translation of Minister of State for Power Bharatsinh Madhavsinh Solanki’s reply on their headphones during Question Hour.
“What is the use of sitting here if we don’t understand what the minister is saying?” Baalu asked the Speaker.
As he began to walk out of the House in protest, Solanki offered to answer the question in English. This raised protests from BJP and Shiv Sena members, who demanded the minister reply in Hindi.
“Hindi is the official language of the country and it should be respected,” one of them said.
The row prompted Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House for 15 minutes.
When the house reassembled at 11.45 a.m, the technical snag was fixed. “I want to apologise. There was some technical fault in the English translation... It has been corrected,” Kumar said.
However, the MPs continued to protest. The RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh shouted with JD(U) and SP members, insisted on Hindi. This prompted Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to shout at Singh, asking him to sit down.
Finally, peace was restored and Question Hour resumed.
Hindi, English versions of Lok Sabha debates are available on the central audio system. Interpreters translate the speeches in real time and air it through headphones provided to the MPs and journalists.