Shifting from the National Herald issue, Congress in Lok Sabha on Thursday latched on to certain “objectionable” remarks by a BJP member against Rahul Gandhi, creating uproar to demand his apology even as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan cautioned the MP, saying his comments were “wrong”.
Congress members, along with those of Trinamool Congress, walked out to boycott the House for the day after failing to extract an apology from Virendra Singh even after parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said any personal remarks are “condemned”.
Singh, member from Bhadoi in Uttar Pradesh, had made the remarks in the House on Wednesday while participating in a discussion on drought situation.
Congress, which had given Adjournment Motion, raked up the issue as soon as the House met for the day, with its leader Mallikarjun Kharge saying the BJP member’s remarks against Gandhi, Scindia and former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were “objectionable in nature and shocking”.
He added: “We saw shocking behaviour when ruling party members, including ministers, were encouraging him.”
Mahajan said the remarks have been expunged and she had warned the member.
This did not help and Congress members rushed to the Well and raised slogans while the House took up the Question Hour.
At the same time, he said Congress members had also “hurled papers” at Deputy Speaker Thambidurai yesterday and questioned, “Should action not be taken against them? You (Congress members) called Prime Minister, who is the darling of the masses, Hitler. Is that okay?”
As the war of words between Kharge and Naidu continued, Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said what transpired in the House on Wednesday when the BJP member made the remarks should not recur and both Treasury and Opposition members should face action.
Agreeing with the stand taken by the TMC leader, the Speaker said what Singh had said was “wrong” and cautioned him against repeating it. She even went on to say, “what is the harm in apologising? Your stature will not diminish.”
When Singh wanted to say something, Mahajan snubbed him and asked to sit down.
She also warned Congress against dragging the issue, saying they may also have to seek an apology for throwing papers at the Deputy Speaker.
As the Congress protests continued, Speaker adjourned the House for nearly 25 minutes till 11.40am.
After the House met again, the Congress protest continued, but the Question Hour went on amidst the din.
During the exchanges, Naidu took a swipe at Congress over National Herald issue, saying Parliament was being disrupted for two days over the issue when the matter of court should be raised in court and those concerning Parliament should be raised here.
Kharge insisted that if the member was not suspended or did not offer an apology, then it will impact Parliament’s dignity.
“It seems the government is fully supporting the member. They are insulting other members. If you (Speaker) don’t suspend him or force him to tender an apology, then the dignity of House and members will suffer,” he said.
He added that such behaviour created an atmosphere of “intolerance, political vendetta and insulting members”.
The Speaker, who was approached by Congress members with the complaint last night itself, noted that she had already expunged the objectionable remarks made by Singh but “I cannot force somebody to apologise”.
BJD leader B Mahtab spoke about how Congress members “thumped” the Chair’s desk yesterday when the Deputy Speaker was presiding over the House.
Kharge said that since the member was not apologising, Congress members were walking out for the day. Members of the party, including its chief Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, then left the House. They were joined by Trinamool members.
Mahtab also objected to the passage of bill in the Lok Sabha yesterday amid din.
Naidu agreed but asked what the government could do if some members are “determined” to disrupt the House.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy also attacked Congress, saying Scindia started the discussion on drought and then began disrupting the House.
“You call the prime minister Hitler on his face. You show your back to him when he is in the House. We will not tolerate this... They are stalling the country’s development,” he said.
He also spoke about papers being thrown at the Speaker and sought “exemplary punishment” for those who did it.
Naidu wondered if the House was “helpless” against the disruptive tactics as Congress members speak but do not allow others to speak.
Tariq Anwar (NCP) struck a middle path, saying those who have committed a mistake should apologise, a point with with Naidu agreed. “Rule cannot be for one person. There cannot be two yardsticks.”
There are important legislations coming in Parliament, including GST, he said, adding “If you have to oppose, you have every right to oppose... Please let us allow Parliament to function. It has a heavy agenda.”
Mohammad Salim (CPM) said he too was all for the House to run smoothly so that the business could be taken over. “Disruption is wrong”.