Published On : Fri, Feb 26th, 2016

Smriti Irani Row Leaves Rajya Sabha Truce Over Bills In Tatters

NewDelhi/Nagpur: There is uncertainty again over the fate of Bills in the Rajya Sabha after the government and opposition clashed on Friday during a debate on the JNU controversy and Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

The row broke out after Education Minister Smriti Irani read from a pamphlet allegedly circulated on the Jawaharlal Nehru University or JNU campus, which had derogatory references to Goddess Durga. She said it showed the “depraved mentality” of a section of JNU students.

The debate in the upper house, in which the government is in a minority, was cut short as a united opposition demanded that the minister withdraw her comments and apologise, forcing the house to be adjourned.

Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said, “People in the past have made blasphemous statements about gods, the Prophet and Christ. But never before have these unsavoury remarks been repeated or quoted on the floor of the House.”

“The quote was deliberate. The BJP used the entire debate to polarise. What was the need to bring in Goddess Durga? Ms Irani has to apologise,” said the CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri.

The government has stuck to its guns that Ms Irani did not violate any code. “She didn’t say anything blasphemous. She was merely trying to build an argument on how in the past objectionable material was generated in JNU,” a minister said.

The Rajya Sabha Chairman will now rule whether the debate in the upper house, is alive or over. Ms Irani was mid-speech when the House was adjourned. Technically, her reply to the debate is not finished, but the government doesn’t want to return to it.

Nothing doing, says the opposition. It wants an apology before any other business can be taken up.

Though Friday is set aside for private member bills, the opposition is not ready to let the issue die and may carry it to the next week when the House starts working after the union budget is presented on Monday.

Effectively, a pre-session agreement between the opposition and government that Parliament would run if key issues were debated before Bill were brought is now in tatters.