Lok Sabha on Monday witnessed uproar after Left lawmaker Mohammad Salim attributed a statement to Union home minister Rajnath Singh during a debate on ‘rising intolerance’ in India.
CPI(M) leader Mohd Salim, who initiated the debate, accused Singh of making the statement to a news magazine in the course of his speech.
Singh, however, denied having ever having made such a statement and demanded an apology over Salim’s remarks.
“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.
Salim after reading out the comment from the magazine said, “I was quoting Rajnath Singh from a magazine, if he is denying then let him send a legal notice to the publication house.”
The arguments led to an uproar in Lok Sabha and Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House for an hour till 2:05 pm and also expunged Salim’s comment for now. The house was again adjourned till 3:15pm and later till 4pm when it reconvened.
Earlier, the Left leader also alleged that “we are straying from our culture of tolerance” and that “we want a rational India, secular India.”
“Before people used to say NDA’s ‘hidden agenda’ now it’s no longer hidden. It’s all open,” Salim said. “They also talk about ‘fringe elements’. Who are these ‘fringe elements’? Ministers? Members of Parliament?… They compare Dalits to dogs,” he added.
“This isn’t a fascist country, it’s a democratic country. We want rational and secular India,” said Salim.
“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 Prime Minister Modi’s one-way communication of Mann ki Baat.
Modi was not present in the House during the discussion as he is attending an international climate conference in Paris. He is expected take part in the debate in Rajya Sabha when it takes up the issue on Tuesday.
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.
It is being seen as a conciliatory move by the government that has in the past, doggedly refused to comment on the issue, pointing the finger at the Congress for trying to stoke discontent against the NDA.
Earlier before Parliament met, Congress MP KC Venugopal said that it is his duty to express opinion about intolerance. He and PKarunakaran of CPI (M) are the two parliamentarians who gave the notice for the discussion.
“We are just doing our duty as a constructive Opposition. Our primary duty is to express our opinion about growing intolerance in Lok Sabha,” said Venugopal.
On Sunday, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu had said the government was ready for a debate on intolerance if the opposition allowed the House to function but defended the government’s record, indicating the debate was likely to be stormy.
“Nothing has gone wrong during Narendra Modi’s regime as PM, there is absolute tolerance in the country,” Naidu said on Monday.
“Different writers have different opinions, Things used to happen earlier also. During the emergency, constitutional and fundamental rights were crippled, these people (writers) were silent then and violent now,” he said.
Later, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Naidu said that the mandate of the people “should be tolerated.”
“Let us tolerate the mandate of the people, we must respect that,whether you like it or not is not the issue,” said Naidu.
A lot is at stake in the month-long winter session as the government has lined up an ambitious list of bills led by the goods and services tax bill, a landmark tax reform initiative.