Relations between the government and the Opposition turned frosty again on Wednesday after the two sides went on a collision course over comments and tweets by Union ministers, casting a shadow on the fate of important bills in Parliament.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has called some party leaders for a meeting at 9.30am on Thursday where the principal Opposition party may decide its strategy for the ongoing Parliament session.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed repeated adjournments after BJP leaders countered former UPA minister Kumari Selja’s claim that she was asked about her caste before she could enter a Gujarat temple. Power minister Piyush Goyal suggested the Congress was trying to “manufacture discrimination”.
Earlier, finance minister Arun Jaitley read out from the temple’s visitors book in which Selja wrote about “a very good darshan” she had. Jaitley said the Congress leader used “complimentary words” during her visit to the Dwarka temple in 2013.
Selja said the incident happened at a different temple, Bet Dwarka, and not the main Dwarka temple.
Adding fuel to the fire, junior minister for external affairs VK Singh attacked Rahul Gandhi in a series of tweets, a day after the Opposition leader questioned the minister’s continuance in office and said he couldn’t see Singh during the debate on intolerance.
Singh tweeted, “Intriguing that @OfficeOfRG questions my absence from the parliament, wonder how someone who vanished for 57 days earlier this year and has one of the poorest track records when it comes to attending the parliament (43% in 2013), does so with a straight face.”
Congress MPs held up Lok Sabha for almost 10 minutes over the remarks.
The Congress-led Opposition eventually agreed to allow the Houses to run to discuss the floods in Tamil Nadu.
Sources said the simmering tension between the two sides may not be over soon. Hours after Singh’s tweets led to a ruckus, a senior Congress leader said, “The functioning of Parliament will largely depend on how the government conducts itself in both Houses.”
The government is working towards a solution to end the row over Selja’s remarks. Sources said Vice-President Hamid Ansari may appeal to both sides to let the House run smoothly on Thursday.
“Here’s a minister who had two birth certificates and called media presstitutes and can’t distinguish between man and dog,” Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said about Singh.
Singh reminded Gandhi about his 42-year career in the army. “He forgets that my men & I put our lives on the line to protect this very socio-economic & cultural fabric of our nation,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, Singh questioned Gandhi’s performance in developing his Lok Sabha constituency, Amethi. The tweet was deleted later.