BJP, Opposition slug it out in Parliament over Kharge’s statement

New Delhi: Both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha saw verbal clashes between the Treasury benches and Opposition members on Tuesday over a comment by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. While the Lok Sabha had to be adjourned in the morning amid heated exchanges between the BJP and the Opposition, in the Rajya Sabha a war words erupted between Leader of the House Piyush Goyal and Mr Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition, with Mr Goyal and the Treasury benches demanding that Mr Kharge apologise for his speech in Alwar on Monday.

As the ruckus continued unabated, the Chairman, Jagdeep Dhankar, stood up and said: “We are setting a very bad example… This kind of conduct gives a bad name… Even the observations of the Chair that are wholesome are indigestible. What a painful scenario we are having. Trust me, 135 crore people are laughing at us. They are concerned and think that we cannot listen to each other.”

At a rally in Alwar on Monday, Mr Kharge had said while the Congress stood for the country and helped attain Independence after its leaders made supreme sacrifices, “not even a dog of the BJP was lost” for the country. He had also alleged that the BJP government “talks like a lion but acts like a mouse” as it is not taking on China over its incursions on the border and was running away from a debate on the issue in Parliament.

Infuriated with his words, BJP MPs took on the Congress members when the Lok Sabha met on Tuesday morning. As soon as the House met, members from the Treasury benches sought to raise the issue of the remarks by the Congress leader and subsequently, Opposition members also started protesting, leading to heated exchanges between the two sides. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal were engaged in a heated exchange over Mr Kharge’s remarks. As the din continued, Speaker Om Birla adjourned the proceedings till 11.30 am.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Treasury bench members sought an apology from Mr Kharge for his comments. However, Mr Kharge refused to do so, saying the remarks were made outside Parliament and should not be discussed in the House. He insisted that the BJP had no role in the country’s freedom struggle.

Soon after the papers were laid in the Upper House, Treasury bench members were up on their feet demanding an apology from the Congress leader. “Yesterday, Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge used foul language in his speech at Alwar. He made baseless remarks and tried to keep untruths before the nation. I strongly condemn it and demand an apology from him. The way he has used foul language reflects his thinking and jealousy….He (Kharge) may be jealous that his party is not being accepted by people. Use of such foul language is an insult of this House and all citizens,” said Mr Goyal.

He added that after Independence Mahatma Gandhi had said the Congress should be disbanded, and Mr Kharge’s behaviour shows what the Father of the Nation had said was true. “Kharge does not even know how to give a speech. Till he apologises, he has no right to stay in the House,” Mr Goyal added.

As Treasury bench MPs continued to demand an apology, Mr Dhankar asked the LoH to control members and maintain decorum. As the protests continued, the Chairman said he does not “appreciate such unruly scenes and chaotic behaviour” in the House. There may be a difference of opinion among members but one should not indulge in “tit for tat” like children, he said, and asked Mr Kharge to continue his statement.

Mr Kharge said there was no need to discuss the issue as the remarks were made in Alwar during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. “What I had said politically was outside the House and not in the House. There is no need to discuss it here,” he said.

“If I repeat what I said outside it would be difficult for them. You are asking for an apology from those who fought for the country’s Independence. They accused the Congress of holding ‘Bharat Todo Yatra’, to which I responded by saying that Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi gave their lives for the country. Who has given his life from your side? (BJP),” Mr Kharge asked.

Meanwhile, Mr Dhankhar assured the Opposition parties that he would not hesitate to suspend the scheduled business of the House under Rule 267 even on a daily basis if the notices qualify on merit. In the same breath, Mr Dhankhar, however, asserted that he would not invoke the rule even once during his entire tenure if notices are devoid of merit.