Amit Shah not as adamant as party on Rahul Gandhi's apology
The ruling establishment on Friday insisted that Rahul Gandhi must apologise for his UK remarks before he can be allowed to defend them in Parliament, and stepped up its attack on the Congress leader with BJP president J.P. Nadda joining in.
But in the evening, at the India Today Conclave, Union home minister Amit Shah did not sound as inflexible as the party had earlier in the day.
“It’s unfortunate that the Congress party is indulging in anti-national activities. After being repeatedly rejected by the nation, Rahul Gandhi has now become a permanent part of this anti-national toolkit,” Nadda said in a video statement.
He went on to say that the Congress and Rahul spoke in the same vein as Pakistan. With Union ministers accusing Rahul of “insulting” India on foreign soil by speaking of a threat to democracy in the country, the Congress leader had on Thursday met Speaker Om Birla and sought an opportunity to explain his remarks in Parliament.
“So, if Indian democracy was functioning, I would be able to say my piece in Parliament,” Rahul later said outside the House.
While the decision rests with the Speaker, Union ministers and BJP leaders indicated both inside and outside Parliament that Rahul might not be allowed his say in the Lok Sabha unless he apologised.
“Rahul Gandhi should first tender an unconditional apology for defaming the country and Parliament,” information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur told reporters. “Instead of that he is putting a condition that he should be allowed to speak.”
Home minister Shah later sidestepped a question about the government being adamant on an apology from Rahul and said the Parliament standoff can be resolved if the Opposition comes forward to hold talks with the government.
“(Whether) we are adamant or not (is not the question since) you are not the Speaker. What I’m saying is, let the two parties (government and Opposition) sit before the Speaker, let them (Opposition) move two steps forward and we also move two steps forward and the standoff can be resolved,” Shah said at the conclave.
His comments suggested the government might be softening its stand to get Parliament to function and pass the budget. Shah accused the Opposition of “only doing press conferences and taking no action for resolving the stalemate”.
On Rahul’s UK remarks, Shah said the Congress had to clarify whether it was right to make such comments on foreign soil, and claimed that Indira Gandhi had refrained from criticising the country overseas.
As the Lok Sabha assembled on Friday, Opposition members chanted “Rahul Gandhi ko bolne do (Let Rahul Gandhi speak)” while the ruling benches retaliated with “Rahul, maafi mango (Rahul, apologise)”.
Speaker Birla sat quietly for nearly 20 minutes amid the din before adjourning the House till Monday, saying members would be allowed to speak only after order had been restored. BJP insiders said the government was determined not to provide any leeway to Rahul, even at the cost of appearing to buttress his allegation about the suppression of democracy and the Opposition’s voice.
The government fears that if Rahul is allowed to speak in the House, he would again raise the Adani controversy over which he already faces a privilege motion.
BJP member Nishikant Dubey had moved the privilege motion after Rahul had in a speech in the Lok Sabha, during the first leg of the budget session, levelled accusations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government in the context of the Adani-Hindenburg controversy. Dubey claims Rahul made false allegations against the Prime Minister.
Sources in the BJP said Rahul might soon be asked to appear before the House privilege committee. Dubey has now written to the Speaker demanding the formation of a special committee to examine Rahul’s UK remarks.
He said Rahul should be expelled from the Lok Sabha. BJP insiders said the top leadership was yet to take the final decision on pushing for Rahul’s expulsion, an extreme move that could be perceived as proving his charges of a threat to democracy.