Indiana Jaitley and a Temple of Dwarka

A minister no less than Arun Jaitley today moved heaven, earth and temple records to challenge the veracity of caste-linked anguish expressed by Kumari Selja, and his colleague borrowed his phraseology to describe her version as "manufactured discrimination".

By Our Bureau
  • Published 3.12.15
  •  
Arun Jaitley, Kumari Selja

New Delhi, Dec. 2: A minister no less than Arun Jaitley today moved heaven, earth and temple records to challenge the veracity of caste-linked anguish expressed by Kumari Selja, and his colleague borrowed his phraseology to describe her version as "manufactured discrimination".

Selja, a Congress leader and a minister in the erstwhile UPA government, reminded the doubters that the temple they were referring to was not the same one she had mentioned on Monday.

The controversy - the last word on which is yet to be uttered - not only threw the Rajya Sabha into turmoil but also provided an insight into the uncommon lengths to which the government is going in its attempts to discredit its detractors.

On Monday, Selja had said: "As cabinet minister, I had gone to Gujarat. When I visited Beyt Dwarka temple for offering prayers, a priest there asked me my caste. This is the Gujarat model of development...." . Selja was speaking during the debate on "Commitment to Constitution", which concluded yesterday.

Today, surprise was in store for those who thought the matter was over and done with.

On his own, Jaitley informed the House that Selja had complimented the Dwarka temple and its management after her visit on February 22, 2013.

Jaitley had accessed the records of the main Dwarka temple, according to which Selja had praised the temple priests and said she was lucky to have got the "blessings of Lord Krishna".

Jaitley explained that he wanted to place on record what she wrote in the visitors' diary "so that this impression that this kind of discrimination goes on does not continue in this country".

On Monday, Selja had initially said she had been asked her caste at a Dwarka temple. When she was later asked to specify which temple, she had said "the one on the island" and agreed with a BJP member who said that must be Beyt Dwarka.

Selja referred to that today, saying: "I made it very clear that day itself. It was not the main Dwarka I was talking about; it was Beyt Dwarka."

Beyt Dwarka, said to be the abode of Lord Krishna, is on a small island that is accessible by boat. The Dwarkadish Temple in Jamnagar district in Saurashtra was the capital of Lord Krishna's terrestrial kingdom and attracts thousands of pilgrims. Beyt Dwarka and Dwarkadish Temple are around 30km apart.

In the middle of the exchange, minister Piyush Goyal lobbed his barb: "Another case of manufactured problems and manufactured discrimination". Goyal was following in the footsteps of Jaitley who had described the intolerance protests as attempts to "manufacture a paper rebellion".

One consequence was the rest of the Opposition joined the Congress in protesting Goyal's swipe.

Seven successive adjournments and a lengthy meeting of all party leaders in the deputy chairman's chamber did not end the stalemate as the Opposition demanded that Goyal withdraw his statement.

Disagreement over whether there should be only a withdrawal of the statement or "withdrawal with regret" was not resolved. The matter is expected to be taken up tomorrow as the House discussed the Tamil Nadu flood today.

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury wondered why the government had inflicted a "self-goal" upon itself.

Asked, a government source said outside the House: "There are issues that go beyond Parliament. We also needed to look at the larger ramifications of her allegation and had to answer it as a result. We cannot allow the sentiments of large social groups to be hurt as a result of one person's charge."

Another source said: "She deliberately made a reference to the Gujarat model to politicise the matter. As a minister then, did she bother to call the collector, the chief minister, the PM and her cabinet colleagues?"

BJP sources said the reference to the "Gujarat model", which is associated with Narendra Modi before he became Prime Minister, could not have been left unchallenged.

Later, a contrite Goyal tried to placate Selja and humoured her by dredging up their Haryanvi connections. Selja is from Hisar in Haryana. Although born and raised in Mumbai, Goyal's father, the late Ved Prakash Goyal, who was a minister in the Vajpayee government, was from Ambala in Haryana.