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Azad’s controversial remarks in RS expunged, govt criticises him

The Rajya Sabha witnessed an uproar on Thursday after Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, made comments linking casualties in September’s Uri attack to the deaths after the government’s sudden decision to ban high-value currencies last week.

black money crackdown Updated: Nov 17, 2016 23:24 IST
Demonetisation,Black Money,Ghulam Nabi Azad
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad speaks in Rajya Sabha during the winter session of Parliament in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Opposition parties paralysed Parliament on Thursday, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence during a debate on the government’s shock decision to recall Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes that has caused hardship to the people.

The government rejected the demand, citing its prerogative to decide who should reply to the debate and ruled out any rollback of the decision to scrap high-value notes.

The political blame game took an unpleasant turn in the Rajya Sabha as it deviated from demonetisation to patriotism and Pakistan. It was triggered by a controversial remark by leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad over the death of 40 people in long queues outside banks and ATMs, a comment expunged later.

Backed by angry ruling party MPs, information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu termed Azad’s statement “atrocious, objectionable and anti-national” and demanded an apology from him and the Congress party.

“Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has taken the lives of thousands of people… you are comparing this (deaths of people outside banks) with Pakistani terror. Pakistan will use this statement,” said the minister.

An unrelenting Azad said that people like him in Kashmir—he hails from the Valley— are dying in Pakistani firing.

“You are the supporter of Pakistan. You participate in their feast. You send them shawls, mangoes…You go to their marriage ceremonies uninvited…,” said the Congress leader, in an apparent reference to Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore last Christmas to meet Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif amid preparations for his granddaughter’s marriage.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley later slammed the opposition party for its “irresponsible” behaviour in Parliament.

“The Congress is a political party which has remained in power. What selfish motive does it have to weaken this move of the government? We would have expected the Congress to support it. This is not patriotism that you connect this with terrorism. Even the terrorists use black money,” Jaitley told ANI.

“If the government thinks it necessary at an appropriate time for the Prime Minister to intervene, we will consider it at that stage. But it’s not necessary that there is an intervention in every debate.”

The opposition also took the political battle outside Parliament, with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal leading a rally in Delhi. They also set a three-day deadline to the Centre for withdrawing the demonetisation move.

As disruptions returned to both Houses, uncertainty loomed over the fate of the key legislations. Sources in the Opposition camp said that it would continue to press the government for a joint parliamentary panel probe into demonetisation as well as Modi’s clarification.

(This copy has been updated since Azad’s remarks in the House were expunged)

Read| Demonetisation: Cong says no debate until PM present in RS, govt rejects demand

For full coverage on demonetisation, click here

First Published: Nov 17, 2016 18:10 IST