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Hint at Rajiv slur deletion

AAP strives to undo Bharat Ratna jab
(Left to right) Arvind Kejriwal's media advisor Nagendar Sharma, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, AAP delhi unit secretary Saurabh Bharadwaj at a press conference.

Pheroze L. Vincent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 22.12.18, 09:18 PM

Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party strove at damage control a day after its members passed an Assembly resolution seeking withdrawal of Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna, amid indications the Speaker might get this part of the text deleted.

At the end of a special House session where discussions included the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, AAP member Jarnail Singh had read out the official resolution on Friday but included a paragraph on Rajiv, composed impromptu and not printed in the circulated draft.

Party MLA Somnath Bharti had scribbled the paragraph and handed the note to Jarnail. The resolution was passed by a voice vote in the absence of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and the entire four-member BJP Opposition, who had left for the day.

On Saturday, Sisodia repeated the AAP claim that the offending paragraph was not part of the resolution but was introduced as an amendment that was not passed — a claim refuted by the Assembly records.

“It is their (Jarnail’s and Bharti’s) personal view. We have no stand on this (demand for withdrawal of the award). We have no thoughts on Rajiv Gandhi that we need to comment on,” Sisodia said.

An Assembly source said Speaker Ram Niwas Goel was expected to order the Assembly secretariat on Monday to remove the mention of Rajiv from the resolution.

The BJP has accused the ruling party of “backtracking on the resolution” and attributed this to its purported alliance talks with the Congress. At his news conference, Sisodia denied any such talks with the Congress.

The party is split between supporters and opponents of an alliance with the Congress, the anti-Congress lobby’s ranks including rebels like MLA Kapil Mishra and party co-founder Kumar Vishvas.

Congress workers protested opposite the AAP headquarters on Saturday.

With Bharti and Jarnail falling in line and saying the Rajiv paragraph was an “amendment”, the AAP leadership’s anger is now focused on MLA Alka Lamba, who had appeared to defy the party after the resolution’s passage.

Lamba, a former Congress student leader who has unsuccessfully been vying for party and government posts, had on Friday evening tweeted: “I was asked to speak in support of this resolution to withdraw former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna, which I refused to do, and I walked out of the House. I am ready for any punishment for this.”

A “walkout” denotes a member registering their protest publicly and leaving the House. No such walkout by Lamba was recorded.

She had also told reporters the party had asked her to resign. After Sisodia’s news conference ---- where he said “No resignation has been asked for” ---- she said she was not resigning.

She also posted tweets praising Rajiv’s legacy: “I am very happy that the party has supported the Bharat Ratna given by the country to Late Rajiv Gandhi.”

On Saturday, AAP parliamentarian Sanjay Singh reaffirmed the party’s stand that those responsible for the 1984 pogrom deserve stringent punishment. But he added: “Rajiv Gandhi is not in this world any more and commenting on him is improper and disrespectful.”

But another party leader named Jarnail Singh, who is also the Punjabi Academy vice-chairman, issued a statement terming Rajiv’s role in the 1984 pogrom a “blot on the face of India not a Bharat Ratna (sic)”.

Speaker Goel was quoted by PTI as saying: “There was a discussion on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the House on Friday. In the original resolution, which was distributed among legislators and me, Rajiv Gandhi’s name was not mentioned. It was an emotional issue and (the MLA) Jarnail Singh mentioned the name of Rajiv Gandhi during his speech on the resolution.”

On Friday, Jarnail the MLA had used the Speaker’s approval under Assembly Rule 290 (Suspension of Rules) to admit his resolution. It’s a method regularised by the AAP government since coming to power in 2015, overriding earlier rules that required a private member to hand a 12-day notice to the secretary before introducing a resolution.


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