Despite being just two days into its first session, the proceedings of 17th Lok Sabha have already grabbed headlines for interruptions and religious sloganeering.
While newly-elected West Bengal MPs were greeted with 'Jai Shri Ram' during their oath-taking in the Lower House on Day 1, Day 2's proceedings saw numerous chants being raised, including 'Allahu Akbar', 'Om Namah Shivaay', and 'Jai Maa Kaali'. The sloganeering went unabated, ignoring the Chair's direction to desist from it.
On Tuesday, when the members from the West Bengal — especially those belonging to Trinamool Congress (TMC) — took oath, those from the treasury benches teased them with 'Jai Shri Ram', provoking the TMC members to counter with slogans like like 'Jai Hind', 'Jai Bengal', 'Jai Maa Durga' and 'Jai Mamata'.
Kalyan Banerjee of TMC recited 'Durga Path' after concluding his oath while his party colleague Abu Taher Khan began his oath with 'Bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar Rahim' and ended with 'Allahu Akbar'.
As West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek's name was called for oath, BJP members chanted 'Jai Shri Ram'. Responding to chanting, he said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not as popular in the House.
Several Tamil leaders who raised pro-Tamil slogans were also greeted by 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' from the treasury benches. When DMK's Kanimozhi took oath by saying “Vazhga Tamil, Vazhga Periyar”(long live Tamil, long live Periyar), she was countered by chants of 'Jai Shri Ram'.
While taking the oath, Thol Thirumavalavan, leader of Tamil nationalist party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, said, "Long live Ambedkar, Periyar. Vazhga Jananayakam Samatuvam (Long live democracy and equality)." Those at the treasury benches snapped at Thirumavalan and said that he'll say everything but not 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
At one time, when the pro tem Speaker asserted that only the words in the oath will be noted, 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' chants followed and filled the air for a good 10 seconds.
The credit for bringing 'Jai Shri Ram' to the Lower House goes to the BJP. For those who weren't keeping the track of developments, BJP leaders including Modi and party chief Amit Shah popularised the slogan after a few people were detained for chanting it when Mamata's motorcade was passing by during election season.
Both Modi and Shah took several jibes at Mamata for the action, and went campaigning across the country to encourage the people to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' for what had happened in Bengal.
Cut to Tuesday, several Opposition leaders were heckled while taking the oath as Lok Sabha members. The issue has now gone beyond that of 'BJP vs TMC' and reached the national television.
It's no secret that nationalism has been the core of BJP's agenda, but by invoking Ram in Parliament, BJP is also attempting to send across a larger message on the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Let's not forget, Ram Mandir has featured in every BJP manifesto for Lok Sabha election since 1996. Though the matter is subjudice, the party has maintained in their 'Sankalp Patra' that it "will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya".
Slogans of 'mandir vahin banayenge' were also raised in the Lok Sabha after Sakshi Maharaj took oath in Sanskrit. He concluded with 'Jai Shri Ram', which was received by BJP members with loud thumping of tables.
With Modi's re-election, the party is facing pressure from its allies like Shiv Sena to push for the issue. Tuesday's sloganeering, however, only led to chaos, as those in the Opposition, too, came up with comebacks.
Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq objected to "Vande Mataram" slogan, which triggered an uproar from the BJP. Concluding his oath of duty, Barq said, "As far as Vande Mataram is concerned, it is against Islam we cannot follow it."
#WATCH: Slogans of Vande Mataram raised in Lok Sabha after Samajwadi Party's MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq says, "Jahan tak Vande Mataram ka taaluq hai, it is against Islam we cannot follow it" after concluding his oath. pic.twitter.com/8Sugg8u8ah
— ANI (@ANI) June 18, 2019
Of all the noisy exchanges in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the one that stood out was when AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi ended his speech with — "Jai Bhim, Jai Meem, Takbeer Allahu Akbar, Jai Hind" — before promptly walking away.
The entire row makes it clear that the leaders are okay with important issues taking a backseat as they flaunt their own idea of nationalism in the House. Interestingly, while addressing the media before the commencement of the session on Monday, Modi had told the Opposition to actively participate in discussion while not being bothered by numbers.
"When we come to the Parliament, we should forget 'paksh' (treasury) and 'vipaksh' (opposition). We should think about issues with a 'nishpaksh' (impartial) spirit and work in the larger interest of the nation," he had said.
If the sloganeering was an exercise by the BJP to make the Opposition feel more "involved", one can predict how the remaining sittings in the current session are going to be.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 18, 2019 23:41:31 IST