Congress, BJP clash over Kumari Selja's 'caste' remark, Rajya Sabha plunges into sloganeering

Rajya Sabha plunged into sloganeering Wednesday when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a counter attack on a statement made by Congress leader Kumari Selja earlier this week that she was asked about her caste on a visit to the old Lord Krishna temple in Dwarka, Gujarat when she was a Union Minister. A comment by Power Minister Piyush Goyal angered the Congress which brought the House proceedings to a stop. India's parliament winter session has barely begun and the ruling BJP opened its innings by cozying up to the Congress led Opposition because it desperately wants to push through the GST Bill - the most ambitious indirect tax reform post independence. It's barely been a week and the two sides are back where they started.

Congress members on Wednesday forced three adjournments of the Rajya Sabha, protesting the statements of Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Piyush Goyal disputing the version of former minister Kumari Selja that she was asked about her caste in a Gujarat temple.

The Congress was not alone in demanding that Goyal take back his comment "“This is another incident of manufactured problems and manufactured discrimination.” The Congress forced three adjournments - the first time for 10 minutes, then till noon and thereafter again till 2 PM, alleging that the government's statements disputing Selja's remarks were "misleading".

 Congress, BJP clash over Kumari Seljas caste remark, Rajya Sabha plunges into sloganeering

File photo. Image courtesy: AFP

Congress made it clear it would accept nothing short of an apology. Chairman Hamid Ansari has convened a meeting Thursday morning.

Minutes after the House met, Jaitley spoke. He said “I have now received an intimation through some people that, let alone not complaining, she had, on her visit, said very complimentary words in writing about the temple itself.” He read out what Selja had written in the visitors’ book of the temple and showed the page to members.

Jaitley said he wanted to dispel the impression that such discrimination goes on in this country.

"She compliments the temple in writing, let alone complain against any kind of discrimination which took place there,” said Jaitley.

Selja countered Jaitley's remark with minutiae. She said the incident did not happen at the main Dwarka temple but at Bet Dwarka. She asked Jaitley not to “mislead the House”. “It doesn’t behove well if you are carrying it on like this one day after another… The Leader of the House and others should show some grace and not carry on like this in such an undignified manner that is totally lacking in grace,” she said.

This is where Goyal got into the ring. “I think she is lowering the level of debate,” he said. “This is another incident of manufactured problems and manufactured discrimination.”

Angry Congress members saw red. “Dalit mahila ka apmaan bandh karo” and “Samvidhan ka apmaan bandy karo" which changed to “Narendra Modi maafi mango” and “Narendra Modi hai hai”.

Among members of other Opposition parties, the Trinamool Congress’s Derek O Brien said a provocative remark has come from the government side which is serious and the member should either withdraw or apologise. He said the statement is almost like calling Selja a liar in public. Goyal said he had not called her a liar.

The CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the government had inflicted a self-goal. “It was a clear insult to the member,” he said.

The Congress, however, allowed a discussion on the flood situation in election-bound Tamil Nadu to take place at 3.30 pm.

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Updated Date: Dec 03, 2015 07:44:00 IST