Finance minister Arun Jaitley hit out at the Congress for imposing the Emergency that endangered the right to life and liberty, sweeping aside accusations of rising intolerance in the country as he led the government charge in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
Speaking on the second day of the winter session of Parliament, Jaitley said the biggest challenge before the country was the suspension of Article 21 of the Constitution – the provision that gave people the right to life and liberty – a reference to the Emergency imposed by then Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi.
“Today if someone comes on TV and gives an irresponsible statement, it is called intolerance. Earlier, people’s life were being taken away illegally --- of course there’s no comparison, it’s like comparing a mountain to a molehill,” Jaitley said, triggering uproar in the Upper House.
The government has been determined to push through its reform agenda, including the landmark goods and services tax bill, in the month-long session but a belligerent Opposition is planning to corner the ruling coalition on a number of issues, including price rise and the snowballing debate over intolerance.
The Congress has been at the forefront of the campaign against the government, accusing BJP leaders of backing fringe elements driving a wedge between communities.
Several thinkers, writers, scientists and historians have returned top government awards and top Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have spoken out against a barrage of communal violence, triggering a wave of stinging criticism from the BJP.