A Left lawmaker triggered a fiery debate on intolerance in the Lok Sabha on Monday, attributing a communal statement to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and leading to repeated adjournments in potential signs of another stormy Parliament session.
“I have never been hurt as much as I have been today in my entire parliamentary career. This is a huge allegation. He should prove it or apologise,” Singh said after CPI(M) MP Mohd Salim accused him of making the controversial statement to a news magazine.
Salim, who initiated the debate, read out from the magazine to buttress his claim but the home minister vehemently denied ever making such a statement.
“A home minister who makes such a statement has no moral right to be the home minister,” Singh said in his spirited reply to the allegation. “I speak after weighing every word...People know Rajnath Singh can never make such a statement.”
The house was adjourned thrice before Speaker Sumitra Mahajan expunged Salim’s remarks, paving the way for resumption of the discussion.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is expected to intervene on Tuesday in the debate that remained inconclusive on Monday.
Salim had earlier refused to withdraw his remarks leading to the repeated adjournments, wondering why the government hadn’t rebutted the report in a magazine that had attributed certain remarks to the home minister.
It was a point echoed by the Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Ray as well.
Salim, however, admitted that the home minister was the first to condemn the Dadri lynching incident when the rest of the government had refused to react.
Mahajan had anticipated the disruptions early in the day and advised members on both sides to demonstrate some tolerance for others and respond only when their turn comes.
Before the disruptions seemed to derail the discussion in the Lok Sabha, Salim attacked the government for its silence when incidents of intolerance were being reported throughout the country.
It was unfortunate that matters had come to such a pass that parliament was first discussing intolerance, and not price rise, he said.
“It is not the government’s job to see what was cooking in the kitchens of people but to ensure that everyone had food to cook,” Salim said.
Salim also took pot shots at the Prime Minister, who is away in Paris to attend the UN climate summit.
“You don’t need to keep your ear to the ground. Along with your outgoing calls you need to also allow incoming calls,” Salim said referring to Modi’s one-way communication during the radio programme Mann ki Baat.
BJP later hit back by saying that incidents which were being projected by the opposition as examples of intolerance had been taking place in the country for decades.
Its member Meenakshi Lekhi also cited home ministry figures to insist that incidents of communal violence had come down since NDA came to power.
Congress member KC Venugopal, however, said it is only in the last 15-16 months that the chain of the events has led to “destruction of the secular fabric” of the country.
The debate comes two days after Modi met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh at his residence, setting aside a history of mutual bitterness amid signs that the government is reaching out to the opposition to avoid a repeat of the monsoon session washout.