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Do those who refuse to accept Vande Mataram live in this country, asks Pratap Chandra Sarangi

Sarangi was the chief of Bajrang Dal in 1999 when a gang burnt to death Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons in Keonjhar

By J.P. Yadav in New Delhi
  • Published 25.06.19, 6:24 AM
  • Updated 25.06.19, 7:32 AM
  • 2 mins read
Sarangi speaks in the House. (PTI)

A first-time MP known as the “Modi of Odisha” was fielded by the new government on Monday to initiate the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, and he used the opportunity to ask a rhetorical question.

“Do people who refuse to accept the Vande Mataram and do not care about the country have a right to live in the country?” Pratap Chandra Sarangi asked.

Sarangi, who represents Odisha’s Balasore constituency and has been made a Union minister, was chief of the Hindutva outfit Bajrang Dal in 1999 when a gang burnt to death Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons in a Keonjhar village.

Before that past became well known, Sarangi was toasted in sections of the media as “Modi of Odisha” on the basis of his Spartan lifestyle.

Normally, the government deputes a senior leader to initiate the debate to underline the importance it gives to the President’s address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.

Political circles interpreted the choice of Sarangi as a statement by the BJP, saying the party appeared to have been emboldened by the emphatic mandate it received in the April-May parliamentary elections.

If the BJP had been cautious about foregrounding Hindutva sentiments in the lead-up to the elections, Sarangi showed no such diffidence.

The MP questioned the right of those who refuse to chant Vande Mataram to live in India, said that “Bharat Mata” was above everything else and likened Narendra Modi to Swami Vivekananda in his speech in the Lok Sabha, four days after President Ram Nath Kovind’s address.

Sarangi asked: “People who say ‘Bharat ke tukde tukde karne tak jung rahegi’, and ‘Pakistan zindabad, Afzal Guru zindabad’, do they have the right to live in this country?”

Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah were present in the House when Sarangi spoke.

Sarangi sought to make it clear that “Bharat Mata” was above everything else. “We want to take everyone along with us in this journey to make a better nation, regardless of party or religion, but if anyone stands against Bharat Mata, they will not be forgiven. Bharat Mata is above everything else,” he said.

“This nation was divided once because of a mistake, we will not let that happen again. The tukde tukde gang will not be tolerated here,” he added as members of the ruling alliance thumped their desks.

The debutant MP, who has been made junior minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, likened Modi to Swami Vivekananda. “There was one Vivekananda whose earlier name was Narendra and now, our Narendra Modi, who has come from a humble background and risen through the ranks to become PM,” Sarangi said.

Sarangi was unsparing in his criticism of the Congress, saying the 10-year UPA rule was synonymous with “policy paralysis and corruption”.

He said the BJP’s Smriti Irani had chased Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, the Congress chief’s traditional seat in Uttar Pradesh, and made him run till Kerala, prompting angry protests from the Congress benches.

Sarangi, who spoke through the din, slammed the Congress for not appreciating the “unprecedented works” done by Modi and added that the party should introspect now.

“I remember, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to praise Indira Gandhi whenever she did good work. But the present Opposition never does that; why I wonder,” he said. “At least start introspecting now.”

He went on to say that the Congress leadership should ask Modi for forgiveness, triggering protests by the Congress members.