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Godse-for-Ratna gets BJP’s goat

New Delhi, June 11: Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi today referred to the Godhra riots and more to question the Modi regime’s assertion that it would protect minorities, fuelling an uproar in the Lok Sabha just before the Prime Minister’s address.

Flagging minority concerns, Masjlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Owaisi listed the 2002 riots, Ishrat Jahan case, Babri Masjid demolition and the recent murder of a Pune techie to turn up the heat on the government.

“It will not be very long before Godse is given a Bharat Ratna by this House,” Owaisi said, setting off loud protests from the treasury benches.

Angry BJP members were instantly on their feet and tried to shut down Owaisi. But he continued his attack as he opposed the motion of thanks to the President’s address.

Citing the recent statement of minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla that Muslims were not a “minority” community like the Parsis, Owaisi claimed that the Modi government had unwittingly revealed its attitude towards Muslims.

“Where is the pluralism and diversity?” he asked, claiming the promise of “zero tolerance” to riots in the President’s speech rang hollow after the recent communal incidents in Maharashtra.

He appeared to pat Narendra Modi for demolishing what he claimed was the “myth of the Muslim vote bank”, but claimed the BJP had actually won on Hindu polarisation.

“Why are there only 21 Muslim MPs in this Lok Sabha? Why does the BJP not have a single Muslim MP? Why did Shahnawaz Hussain (of the BJP) lose?” he asked.

In the Rajya Sabha, Congress’s Madhusudan Mistry tore apart the “Gujarat model”, virtually leaving BJP members tongue-tied by the time he finished speaking.

“What is the Gujarat model? I have seen it and we (in Gujarat) have suffered it. All authority is vested in the chief minister,” Mistry thundered in his maiden speech in the upper House.

“Here all authority will be vested in the PMO and cabinet ministers will not be able to say anything. Bureaucrats will report to the PMO directly.”

The leader of the House, Arun Jaitley, had yesterday said the Prime Minister must have the last word if there were to be a decisive and efficient administration.

Mistry also touched on what the Congress has termed the “no-repeat theory” and the “use-and-throw policy” characterising the Gujarat model. Party leaders had taken potshots at both while campaigning for the elections.

By “no-repeat theory”, the Congress had meant that Modi never allowed leaders in positions of power to remain there for long. An instance would be Rajya Sabha MPs Vijay Rupani and Purshottam Rupala who have been pushed to the sidelines in Gujarat after finishing their six-year terms.

“The no-repeat theory will come to you also. Whichever seniors were around are not there today,” Mistry claimed, addressing BJP members.

Modi is often accused of not letting BJP leaders in Gujarat grow beyond a point. Congress leaders in Gujarat have claimed that he used the services of leaders and then clipped their wings.

Mistry also tried to provoke BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, believed to be disappointed at not getting a ministerial berth. “Try to get your Prime Minister to wear a (skull) cap. He has never worn it and has not been to a mosque. Nor has he visited the homes of those killed (in the riots),” he said.

Modi had refused to wear a skullcap offered by a Muslim leader at a communal harmony meet in Gujarat in 2011. In the run-up to the general election, he was seen sporting the headgear of different states as well as the Sikh turban but not the skullcap.

Having tasted defeat at Modi’s hands in Vadodara, Mistry appeared to take the rivalry to Parliament. He said Modi had not won by a record margin, as was being claimed.

Modi won by over five lakh votes but could not break the record of Anil Basu, the now-expelled CPM leader who won from Arambagh by 5.92 lakh votes in 2004.