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Rajya Sabha in Turmoil Over Selja's Caste Bias Charge

Leader of house and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attacks Selja over her remarks that she was asked about her caste during her visit to a temple.

Published: 03rd December 2015 03:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd December 2015 05:21 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha barely functioned on Wednesday, with House adjourned six times due to repeated Congress disruptions after government claimed that former minister Kumari Selja had “manufactured” her allegation of caste discrimination during a visit to Gujarat temple in 2013.

The leader of house and finance minister Arun Jaitley himself got up to launch an attack on Selja, who had alleged that she was asked about her caste during her visit to Dwarakadheesh temple in Gujarat as cabinet minister in February 2013. She made this claim while participating in the debate on ‘Commitment to the Constitution’ on Monday.

She had alleged that “this was also a form of the Gujarat model”, an implicit attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief ministership.

Leading the assault on Wednesday, Jaitley 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 then quoted from the visitor’s book, where Selja had said, “With Lord Krishna’s blessings, had a very good darshan. The upkeep and maintenance of the premises is excellent. May the Lord bless all those who are fortunate enough to come here for his blessings.”

There was immediate uproar, with Selja claiming that she had not mentioned that she had gone to the main Dwaraka temple, but to the Beyt Dwaraka temple. “That day, I made it very clear that it was the Beyt Dwarka, not the main Dwarka. Please don’t do this Mr. Leader of the House. It doesn’t behove well if you are carrying it on like this one day after another,” said Selja.

She claimed that Jaitley had “made some rude gestures” and asked him to withdraw his remarks.  Provoked, other members of the treasury benches also jumped in. “This is another incident of manufactured problems and manufactured discrimination,” asserted Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asked Selja, “Is this not your handwriting? If this is your handwriting, then you should apologise”.

With Congress MPs, including Selja, trooping to the well of the House, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House - first for 10 minutes, and then for 15 minutes till noon.

When the House reassembled for question hour, Chairman Hamid Ansari also adjourned the House within a few minutes till noon.  Earlier, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien lamented that the House’s record had seen peaceful debates over the last three day, had been shattered after “provocative” remark from the treasury benches.  In fact, after lunch, some members tried to intervene to bring back some semblance of order, asking Goyal to withdraw his remarks.  “In this matter, the person concerned is a senior Member of this House, who had been a Cabinet Minister earlier; she has made a statement. The matter should have ended there. Instead of that, why cast aspersions and call her all the names that you have called,” said CPM’s Sitaram Yechury.

Naqvi quoted verbatim again from Selja’s statement from Monday to note that she had only referred to Dwaraka temple.  The leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad also said that Congress wanted a discussion on the devastating Chennai rains, but reminded that Goyal’s words were unusually provocative.  House adjourned three more times as party leaders deliberated with the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman to cool down tempers. The discussion on the Chennai rains began on 3.30 pm.

Rajya Sabha is expected to see more disruptions on Thursday, with Congress expected to again protest statements made against Selja.

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