HRD Minister Smriti Irani was again in the line of fire in Lok Sabha with opposition members forcing Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow them to speak on their notice for Privilege Motion against the minister.
Congress and Left members accused Irani of using the House to “mislead” the nation with her “totally blatant untruth” during her reply last week on Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in the Hyderabad Central University.
Their attack on the minister, who was not present in the House, came after an upset Speaker vented her anguish over the relentless slogan-shouting by the opposition members. She said slogans were raised against her as well.
“You raise slogans against the Speaker... Whatever you have done today is not good,” said an anguished Mahajan as she allowed them to speak. At the same time, she said this should not be seen as a precedent.
The Speaker relented after TMC leader Sudip Bandhyopadhyaya urged her to allow Congress members to speak on the matter.
K C Venugopal (Cong) referred to Irani’s statement in which she had said that no doctor was allowed near Vemula after his suicide attempt. He cited the subsequent response of the Hyderabad health official to claim that she made “false” comments.
He added that a book which Irani said was allowed by the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal was discontinued in 2001, long before he became a minister under the UPA government.
Mohammad Salim (CPI-M) said, “What the Minister said was totally blatant untruth. Will you allow the House to be used to mislead the nation?”
Ranjit Ranjan (Cong) accused Irani of referring to her in a “threatening” manner and said this is the difference between an “elected member” and a “selected member”, an apparent jibe at the HRD Minister who lost in the last Lok Sabha polls from Amethi and is a member of Rajya Sabha now.
Saugata Roy (TMC) said it is a custom that when ministers reply they are responsible but Irani was not. Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP) defended Irani, saying she had quoted a police report to make her points.
The House, however, witnessed uproarious scenes when Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue of Union Minister Ram Shankar Katheria’s controversial remarks made at a public meeting in Agra allegedly directed at Muslims.
As soon as he raised the issue, Speaker disallowed him amid protests by treasury benches.