Rajya Sabha: Jaitley targets Emergency, Azad hits back

RSTV Bureau

Arun-Jaitley-besides-PM-Modi-in-Rajya-Sabha---Nov-27,-2015Day 2 of the Winter Session in the Upper House saw a high-pitched trading of charges between the Leader of the House Arun Jaitley and the Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad — all this while the leaders paid tribute to the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

The House was holding a discussion on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution’ as part of the 125th Birth Anniversary celebration of Dr. Ambedkar.

In his speech, Arun Jaitley took on the Congress, virtually accusing the party of practicing vote-bank politics and being “soft” on terror.

“The biggest challenge to any Constitutional system in the world is terrorism. We have to fight that challenge together. Sometimes for vote bank politics, we hold ourselves back from criticising the way we should. This is the result of the last 65 years,” Jaitley said, in an apparent attack on Congress while making reference to the Parliament attack of 2001, Mumbai blasts of 1993 and the serial blasts on local trains in Mumbai that happened in 2006.

The Finance Minister then moved on to talk about the period of Emergency under then Congress Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

Jaitley cited Hitler’s actions in Germany in 1930s to target the Congress for imposing Emergency by “subverting” the Constitution and said “dictatorship was at its worst” during the period.

Ghulam-Nabi-Azad-in-Rajya-Sabha---Nov-27,-2015“The biggest challenge we faced (during Emergency) was that Article 21 was suspended and citizens lost even the right to life and liberty. This was dictatorship at its worst,” Jaitley said.

“There are worst illustrations in history when Constitutional systems are used to subvert the Constitution… You have the most glaring example in the world when in 1933 in Germany Emergency was declared,” he added while making the apparent comparison.

The Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad left no stone unturned in hitting back. In his speech he continued the “intolerance” debate that was initiated by Jaitely.

Azad openly and defiantly called the government intolerant for completely ignoring the contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first PM, to the Constitution of India.

“You can talk about German Constitution, its dictator … but you feel ashamed to talk about (Jawaharlal) Nehru. … You are not able to recognise the contribution of first Prime Minister …. This is called intolerance. It flows from the top and percolates down to the streets,” Azad said.

“Declaring November 26 Constitution Day is an attempt by the government to rewrite history. Where did this come from? Where will 26th January go as said by Dr Ambedkar,” he asked.

He went on to congratulate the writers and artistes who had “stood up against intolerance and injustice” and said that numerous “disturbing” incidents had taken place across several states in the last one and a half years.

While referring to Jaitley’s speech, Azad also said that it was clear that the discussion on Ambedkar and commitment to the Constitution was actually a “shield to take aim at other targets.”

In his speech, Azad also raised procedural questions regarding declaring November 26 as Constitution Day, saying that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had come out with a notification on it, though the matter fell in the realm of the Ministry of Home Affairs. He went on to call the notification “null and void”.

In praising Ambedkar, Azad also emphasised that the Constitution was aimed to bridge the divide between rich and poor, adding that social justice was a priority. It was also envisaged that every person should have freedom to practice their religion and freedom of opportunity, Azad explained.

The discussion on the Commitment on India’s Constitution is set to continue for the second day in the Upper House, on Monday.

(With inputs from PTI)