The debate on the raging issue of ‘intolerance’ got off to a passionate start in Lok Sabha leading to the continuous confrontation between the Opposition and the Treasury. Heated exchange began soon after CPI (M) member Mohammed Salim cited a certain remark attributed to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh published in an English news and current affairs magazine based in New Delhi.
As the mention of that remark raked up a storm in the House, even a very strong rebuttal by Home minister Rajnath Singh himself, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the contentious remark be kept out of records pending its veracity.
“Mohd Salim levelled a serious allegation against me. He should say when and where I made such a statement or apologise…. A Home Minister who makes such a statement has no moral right to be the Home Minister,” Rajnath Singh said.
“I speak after weighing every word… People know Rajnath Singh can never make such a statement,” the Union Home minister added further replying to Mohd Salim.
The senior Left-front leader Mohammad Salim quoted from the news report published in the magazine, which claimed that Rajnath Singh had made that contentious remark at an internal meeting of RSS after BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.
With Rajnath Singh strongly denying the remark raised by Salim, members in the treasury benches demanded the latter to withdraw the contentious remark. MoS Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy even sought Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to take cognisance of the matter and examine the same for its authenticity.
The issue led to further escalation of exchange between the two sides, Lok Sabha Speaker adjouned the house for an hour. However, things were no different as the house saw repeated adjournment twice before it got re-assembled at 4:00 PM after which Mohammed Salim concluded his speech in the debate on ‘intolerance’.
On his part, Mohd. Salim insisted that he was not levelling any allegation nor wanted to cast any aspersion on Rajnath Singh but was only quoting from a reputed weekly, even adding that neither the Home Minister nor the government ever denied the report. The senior Left-front leader though refused to take the remark back, but admitted that the Speaker may not put his comments on record till she verifies it.
Throwing their weight behind Mohd Salim, Congress members Veerappa Moily and KC Venugopal said there was no reason why he should withdraw his remarks.
On the other hand, coming to the defence of Union Home minister, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) member B Mahtab said that “an allegation against a minister or member cannot be made without giving prior notice,” citing the Rule book on conduct and procedures of Lok Sabha.
But Salim got a surprise backing from TMC member Saugata Roy who cited rules to defend the latter raising the issue to take on the Union Home minister. Incidentally, Roy’s party TMC is a bitter opponent of CPI (M) in the state of West Bengal. Another TMC member, Dinesh Trivedi said the situation in the House raised question mark on whether we have enough tolerance. “I am sad to say it also reflects intolerance,” he remarked.
In between the house proceedings, several members of the ruling BJP — Kirit Somaiya, Meenakshi Lekhi, Ganesh Singh, demanded apology from Mohammed Salim. Ms. Lekhi even demanded a Privilege Motion against Salim and the journalist who has written the report saying the sanctity of this House is much more than the unauthenticated report.
However, Mohammed Salim continued to stick to his stand, even as he said that he has “no qualms” against the Union Home minister Rajnath Singh.
(With inputs from the PTI)