Parliament witnesses protests, adjournments over Hegde’s remarks

New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) The two houses of Parliament faced repeated disruptions on Wednesday over Minister of State for Skill Development Anant Kumar Hegde’s “amend the Constitution” remarks as the government stressed it was committed to the Constitution and had faith in its architect B.R. Ambedkar.

The Upper House faced two adjournments even as the government distanced itself from Hegde’s comments.

In the Lok Sabha, Congress members kept protesting near the Speaker’s podium with banners and forced three adjournments.

They raised slogans and demanded that Hegde should be called to the House.

Hegde had stirred a controversy on Sunday urging people to “claim with pride that they are Muslim, Christian, Lingayat, Brahmin or a Hindu”. “Those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don’t have their own identity…They don’t know about their parentage, but they are intellectuals,” he had said.

“Some people say the Constitution says secular and you must accept it. We will respect the Constitution, but the Constitution has changed several times and it will change in the future too. We are here to change the Constitution and we’ll change it soon,” Hegde had added.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the issue was “serious” and they want to tell the country about the minister’s remarks.

Kharge used an insulting word to describe the Minister’s description of those having faith in secularism which was expunged by the Speaker.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar accused Kharge of twisting the remarks of his ministerial colleague and also called the Congress “pseudo secular”.

“Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has said that Constitution is the holy book for the people of this country. Congress should not try to teach us a lesson on secularism… They have only practiced pseudo secularism,” he said.

As the House took up a bill to give extension to unauthorised colonies in Delhi till 2020, Congress members trooped near the Speaker’s podium raising slogans.

Members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) stood near the Speaker’s podium displaying placards demanding a separate High Court for Telangana, with one of the members holding an electronic tablet that flashed a message raising their demand.

Amid sloganeering and ruckus, the House was adjourned till 2.45 p.m. by Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai. When the House met, Congress and TRS members continued their protests despite repeated requests by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to take their seats. Members of the BJP and a few other parties spoke on the Bill amid sloganeering by Congress and TRS members.

Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy, who rose to speak on the Bill, accused Hegde of insulting the Constitution and said Parliament had been put to shame by his remarks. “Call the Minister, chastise him. How can he insult Ambedkar?” he said.

The Bill pertaining to unauthorised colonies was later passed amid din in the house.

As the House sought to take up the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017, members urged the Speaker to bring the House in order.

Mahajan then adjourned the House for 15 minutes. But the sloganeering continued when the House met and Trinamool Congress members also joined the protest near the Speaker’s podium.

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said they had already responded to opposition concerns. “What Ambedkar has given to the country, the faith in Constitution, secularism, the BJP is committed to all this,” he said.

“BJP is committed to the Constitution. We have faith in Ambedkar,” he added.

However, the protests by Congress and Trinamool Congress continued and Mahajan went ahead with the Bill related to GST, which was later passed.

Earlier, the House witnessed protests and was adjourned twice during the pre-lunch sitting.

In the Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad lashed out at the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party and said if any person lacked faith in the Indian Constitution, he did not deserve to be in the House or in the government.

“The Minister has no trust in the Constitution and has no right to be the Minister. He has no right to be a Member of Parliament either,” Azad said.

The Opposition sought a discussion over the issue.

Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal said Hegde had abused the Constitution and “insulted” its architect B.R. Ambedkar.

Naidu then adjourned the House till 12 p.m. As the House met again, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said that the Modi government did “not agree with the Minister’s (Hegde’s) remarks”.

The opposition members continued their protest and the House was adjourned till 2 p.m.