'Intolerance' debate gets off to rocky start in Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha saw repeated adjournments today as differences between some members of the opposition and the treasury benches erupted when a Communist Party of India-Marxist member attributed some remarks to home minister Rajnath Singh.

Mohammad Salim of the CPI-M, who initiated a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the issue of intolerance, quoted the home minister as having made the remarks to a magazine. Ruling National Democratic Alliance members contested this strongly.

Salim said that Singh had been quoted as saying, after Narendra Modi and BJP's victory last year, that India had the first "Hindu ruler after 800 years".

While denying having ever made such remarks, home minister Singh said he was deeply hurt by the claim.

"I have never been so much hurt in my parliamentary life. If a home minister makes such comments, he has no right to be in his post," Rajnath Singh said, adding that members of the house and people from the minority community know that he cannot make such remarks.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said Salim's remarks pertaining to the magazine report on the minister would not go on record and she would examine the issue.

"I will give my ruling," she said.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the member should withdraw the comments till their authenticity was ascertained.

Rudy said it would be difficult for members on the treasury benches to sit in the house after allegations "which are dangerous for the country".

Biju Janata Dal member Bhartruhari Mahtab said a member has to give prior notice before levelling allegations against another member.

Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, however, said there was no denial from the minister after the publication of the report in the magazine.

Salim later said his intention was not to hurt the minister and he had done the job of intelligence agencies by telling the minister about the publication of comments attributed to him.

Rudy, however, insisted that Salim should withdraw his words.

As the standoff continued, the speaker adjourned the house for an hour.

After the house reassembled, Rudy again insisted on the CPI-M member withdrawing his remarks till the authenticity was proven.

Salim, however, said he would not withdraw his remarks. "This is also intolerance. This is ridiculous," he said.

Salim said he cited the magazine after questions were put to him about his remarks.

As the standoff persisted, Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai briefly adjourned the house.

When the house reassembled after its second adjournment of the day, Congress member M Veerapa Moily said that since both Salim and Rajnath Singh had spoken, the matter should be put to rest.

But the stalemate persisted and the house was adjourned till 3.15 pm and then again till 4 pm.

When the house met at 3.15 pm, Salim said he was going by the rules and remarked he would have been happy if Rajnath Singh had become prime minister instead of Narendra Modi.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu objected to his remarks and said such comments can also be made about CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

The deadlock was finally resolved with Salim's remarks being expunged.