News Delhi : CPM leader Mohammad Salim started proceedings on Monday in the Lok Sabha, with a stinging allegation against Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It was Salim’s contention that in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi being appointed prime minister in 2014, Rajnath told a magazine that Modi was ‘the first Hindu leader in 800 years’.
‘In my parliamentary career, I am hurt for the first time. This is a serious allegation. I think no home minister should continue after making such a comment,” said Singh, leading to the House being adjourned till 2.05 pm.
The government had braced itself for a tough week in Parliament, with Opposition parties giving a number of notices in both Houses seeking a debate on ‘intolerance’ in society and action against some ministers for their alleged provocative remarks.
Congress and JD(U) have given notices in Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue after suspension of business under Rule 267, while in Lok Sabha Congress and CPI(M) have submitted notices for a debate under rule 193, which does not entail voting or require suspension of business.
In Lok Sabha, the matter has been listed for Monday, while in Rajya Sabha, it can happen any day in the week after the conclusion of the discussion on the “Commitment to India’s Constitution” as part of the 125th Birth Anniversary celebration of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar initiated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on November 27.
The first two days of the session that began on 26 November were functional as parties did not want to be seen blocking a discussion on the Constitution on the occassion of Ambedkar’s anniversary even though the opposition attacked the government over alleged rise in intolerance and communal violence.
“The real confrontation will be there this week when the government brings its legislative agenda on the table. Congress, JD(U), CPI(M), CPI and Trinamool Congress have given separate notices to seek a discussion with and without voting, pass a resolution by the House and seek action against ministers making provocative speeches.
“Much depends on how the government responds to the opposition’s issues,” said a senior opposition party leader on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said that the Centre was ready to discuss the issue of intolerance in the ongoing session of Parliament if the Opposition allows the House to function.
Naidu also alleged that opposition parties and some “pseudo-intellectuals” are “exaggerating” stray incidents that happened in states being “ruled by the Congress and their friends” with an aim to “tarnish” India’s image amid efforts to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
“The BJP government is ready to discuss (the issue of) intolerance if the opposition shows tolerance and allows the House to function. Some of the so-called intelligentsia are worried that they are losing their grip over cultural and literary organisations,” the parliamentary affairs minister said, adding the protests on the issue are being “manufactured”.
However, Naidu added that the intolerance issue was a campaign which is nothing but a ploy to slander the government by those who could not defeat Narendra Modi in elections. “Entire campaign on intolerance is nothing but part of a campaign to slander the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those who could not defeat Modi in polls have launched the disinformation campaign for political reasons,” he said. Naidu said the opposition and so-called intelligentsia are hurting the interests of the country by “blowing the issue out of proportion”. “They are thinking that they are hurting the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but they are hurting the interests of the country and they should understand that. They are using stray incidents of intolerance to portray it as a general condition…such incidents have been occurring in all countries,” Naidu told reporters.
The Congress’ notice for the discussion on intolerance has been moved by Deputy Leader of Opposition in the House Anand Sharma and the party plans to attack the government over alleged “orchestrated campaign to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation” and also raise issues like returning of awards by celebrated writers and others from the intelligensia.
The notice by Sharma, which also seeks passing of a resolution by the House, condemns the “assault on the freedom of expression”.
JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi has given a separate notice under Rule 267 to discuss the issue and the party has decided to seek the resignation of five Union Ministers over their alleged provocative remarks.
“Prime Minister Modi must signal his intent to act against people making such provocative remarks, more so against those from his Cabinet. We have given a notice and we are seeking action against the ministers,” Tyagi told PTI.
In a tweet, JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said, “PM should have assured d country in his speech that there shall not be any communal violence which is on rise after NDA government came to power.”
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has also given a notice in Rajya Sabha seeking passage of a one-line resolution by the House condemning incidents of “intolerance” and asking the government to ensure that they do not happen again.
In the Lok Sabha, the notices of CPI(M) member P Karunakaran and Congress MP K C Venugopal for a discussion on the matter has been listed for Monday.
The opposition has been seeking a discussion on the issue of intolerance for quite some time.
At the all-party meeting held on 25 November in the backdrop of actor Aamir Khan’s remarks on “growing intolerance”, opposition parties had made a strong pitch for an early discussion on the issue, insisting that returning of awards by writers, artistes and filmmakers should not be taken lightly.
Six Left parties, including CPI(M), would also hold protests, both inside and outside the Parliament, on the “hate offensive” by BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits.
With most opposition parties keen on aggressively raising the issue, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said though the government does not agree with their perception of rising intolerance it was “willing to go along with the opposition in this regard for a discussion in an appropriate manner”.
He had also contended that such incidents lie in the domain of the state governments, which are vested with responsibility to maintain law and order.
The government has proposed five Bills for consideration and passing in the House this week. These are the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill, National Waterways Bill, Electricity (Amendment) Bill, and Factories (Amendment) Bill.
The Lok Sabha is scheduled to discuss tomorrow “the situation arising out of incidents of intolerance in the country”.
The Rajya Sabha will resume the discussion on “Commitment to the Constitution” as part of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of B R Ambedkar” which had started on Friday and remained inconclusive.
The Upper House is scheduled to take up Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Whistle Blower Protection (Amendment) Bill, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill in the week.
The PM had also reached out to the opposition by meeting his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at his residence to end the impasse on the controversial goods and services tax bill.
With inputs from PTI