Minister's ‘Muslim Speaker’ comment rocks Karnataka Assembly | Bengaluru - Hindustan Times
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Minister's ‘Muslim Speaker’ comment rocks Karnataka Assembly

PTI | | Posted by Yamini C S
Dec 12, 2023 08:15 AM IST

The government's attempts to defend the statement drew ire from BJP leaders, who called it disrespectful to the position of the Speaker.

Protests rocked the Karnataka Legislative Assembly proceedings on Monday with opposition BJP and JD(S) staging a day long agitation from the well, demanding the suspension of Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan from the House over his alleged "Muslim Speaker" remark. Amidst the din, the House witnessed five bills being passed without discussion, and winding up of a discussion on drought with the government's reply. The ruling Congress and Speaker U T Khader did not heed to the BJP's demand and continued with the proceedings of the House.

Congress leader Zameer Ahmed Khan. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)
Congress leader Zameer Ahmed Khan. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Khan, the Minister for Housing, Waqf and Minority affairs during a recent election campaign in Telangana had said that BJP leaders bowed before a Muslim Speaker (U T Khader) in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, thanks to the opportunity given by the Congress.

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The government's attempts to defend Khan's statement drew ire from BJP legislators, who called it "anti constitution, anti Hindu" and disrespectful to the position of the Speaker. They also hit out at Speaker Khader accusing him of conducting the proceeding in a dictatorial manner like a "Congress Speaker" and insulting the opposition.

When Khan rose to respond to a question raised by BJP MLA Krishna Naik during the Question Hour, Leader of Opposition Ashoka objected to it and said that Khan had disrespected the position of the Speaker and tried to disturb the feelings of Hindus and Muslims, adding that they "would not allow him (to speak)."

Ashoka was joined by several BJP legislators while several Congress MLAs stood up in Khan's defense. This resulted in a verbal battle between both sides and plunged the House into chaos.

The Leader of Opposition said that the Chair should have acted against Khan and suspended him. "Are we (BJP MLAs) gulams (slaves)? To say salaam the way he (Khan) has said," Ashoka said.

While trying to convince the opposition members, the Speaker asked Law and Parliamentary Affairs' Minister H K Patil to explain the government's stand, while requesting to avoid politicising the constitutional post of the Speaker.

Senior BJP MLA C N Ashwath Narayan said that Khan had no right to remain in the House and demanded his suspension from the Assembly.

Ministers Patil and Krishna Byre Gowda objected to BJP raising the issue during the Question Hour, alleging that the opposition was trying to waste the precious time of the House, which was not right. Patil said that the opposition's conduct was causing disrespect to the House.

Speaker Khader told opposition members that they should have raised the issue after giving a notice and asked them to allow the Question Hour.

As his repeated attempts to pacify BJP MLAs and to bring the House in order failed, the Speaker adjourned the Assembly for some time.

When the House met again, the Speaker allowed Khan to reply to questions raised by MLAs during the Question Hour to which Ashoka raised objections and said that Khan's statements could not be forgiven. "This is Bharat, this is Hindustan. He should apologise and he should be suspended from the House," Ashoka said.

He also said it is the duty of the Speaker to protect all members and he should not conduct himself in a partisan way by accepting the "communal statements" made by the Minister towards the Chair. "We will not relent, until you suspend a person who has made a childish and unconstitutional statement towards the Speaker's post," he said, claiming that the then CM S M Krishna had suspended a Minister in his cabinet for communal statements.

BJP members then trooped into the well of the House shouting slogans against the government and demanding suspension of Zameer Ahmed Khan. JD(S) members too joined in.

Standing in the well of the House, the opposition BJP and JD(S) continued to demand Khan's suspension and repeatedly pointed to the Chair that he was supporting Khan's statement without taking any action. This was even as the Speaker conducted the Question Hour and ensured the passage of five bills.

The five bills passed are: The Karnataka Goods and Services Tax (Second Amendment) bill, Karnataka Compulsory Services by Candidates Completed Medical Curses (Amendment) bill, Karavali Development board bill for overall development of the Karavali (coastal) area, Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj (Amendment) bill, and Karnataka Stamp (Amendment) Bill, which were tabled last week.

Ashoka repeatedly sought to point out that the Chair not taking action against Khan which showed that he wasn't concerned about the disrespect to the Chair.

Khader told him that the issue should have been raised as per rules by giving a notice and that the members should now participate in all important discussions on drought and north Karnataka.

Pointing out that the statement was made by a Minister outside the Assembly and outside the state to which he has already reacted, Khader even questioned the BJP on raising the issue a week after the session began.

Ashoka said: "We respect the chair not because the speaker who occupies it is a Hindu or a Muslim. It is because of respect towards the Chair. The minister's statement has humiliated Hindus, so Khan has to apologise. Extend the session by a week for discussion on key issues, but we won't take back protests."

BJP members raised slogans from the well, even calling Khan a "Pakistani agent."

"CM Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM D K Shivakumar claim to be Hindus. Is Congress ashamed to take action when Hindus are insulted?" he asked leading to heated arguments as Congress MLAs objected to it.

Minister Krisha Byre Gowda defended Khan saying he has not uttered anything disrespectful to the Chair and that his words had increased the respect of the Chair. The BJP was indulging in petty politics and also wasting the time of the House, he added.

After passage of bills, the Speaker continued with the ongoing debate on drought and paved the way for the government's reply to the debate.

When the House met post lunch, the deadlock continued with BJP and JD(S) protesting from the well and the Speaker continuing with proceedings of the Assembly.

Ashoka asked the Speaker to decide which was more important: Constitution or appeasement.

To this Khader replied, asking if the opposition found public issues more important or politics.

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Intervening, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: "Our party has utmost respect for the Constitution and we are running the government in accordance with it --- you (BJP) people are against the Constitution and you are speaking. Do you respect the Constitution?" Noting that BJP should be ashamed for raising some issue that appeared in a newspaper, without even giving a notice, instead of discussion on issues like drought and public issues, the CM said: "Khan has clarified to me that he has not said anything -- unconstitutional or disrespecting the Speaker's chair, BJP legislators or their privileges."

He asked the opposition to give notice and raise the issue tomorrow and that the government would be ready to reply to it. "I appeal to you to go back and take part in discussions."

However, adamant on demanding action against Khan, the BJP continued to protest from the well even as the Speaker continued with the proceedings till evening.

"How long will you continue like this? Speaker has to look at both sides. It looks like you are behaving like a Congress Speaker, the House has to be conducted for many days. Many Speakers have come and gone, but have treated respectfully. This is in a dictatorial attitude...we are ready if you conduct proceedings till 1am," Ashoka said, hitting out at the Speaker.

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