NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed uproarious scenes as Congress, Trinamool Congress and BJP members engaged in a war of words over funds managed by the Nehru-Gandhi family and state of affairs in West Bengal, leading to four adjournments of the House.
The ruckus began after Union minister Anurag Singh Thakur launched a scathing attack on the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family, saying that the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF), which was set up in 1948, has not been registered yet and that it was established to benefit the family.
The impasse came to an end only after Thakur expressed anguish if his remarks hurt some members.
"I had no intention of hurting anyone but if someone has been hurt, I express my anguish," he said as the House met at 6 pm after the four adjournments.
Thakur, Minister of State for Finance, was speaking during the procedure for the introduction of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said he would talk about PM-CARES Fund.
Opposition parties have raised concerns about the fund, which was set up in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Attacking the Congress, Thakur said that PMNRF was misused by the Nehru-Gandhi family and observed that the Opposition sees everything, even good things, in a bad light.
"Your intention and thought are not good," he stressed.
The fund was set up by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and it has not been registered yet.
How did the fund get FCRA registration, he asked, adding that the fund was set up for just one family.
The alleged misuse of funds needs to be looked into, he noted.
"The PM Cares Fund is a constitutionally set up public charitable trust. PM National Relief Fund was set up only for the benefits of one family -- Nehru-Gandhi family," he said.
When Congress members protested, Thakur said that names of Nehru and Gandhi family should be taken and alleged that the Gandhi family ruined the country.
About Opposition's concerns, he mentioned that during elections, it was said the EVMs are not working properly, and then it was about demonetisation, triple talaq and GST.
Regarding PM-CARES Fund, the minister said that people went to courts against the fund and courts have given rulings in favour of the fund.
The fund was set up in March and it was opposed in April itself.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was preparing to fight the coronavirus pandemic, at that time also, the Opposition was doing politics, Thakur charged.
He also said that poor and aged people as well as children have contributed to the fund.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that Chinese companies have donated to PM-CARES Fund and that should also be looked into.
In protest against the minister's remarks about the Gandhis, Congress members walked out of the House.
When the House reconvened at 6 pm, Speaker Om Birla said, "If anyone thinks that the Chair has hurt someone, I would like to say that it may be unintentional. For me, every member is equal and protecting every member is my duty," he said.
"If I say anything to anyone, the intention is not to hurt anyone but to run this House smoothly. If someone has been hurt in that process, I personally seek apology from him or her," Birla added.
His remarks were apparently in reference to some members alleging that the Speaker was protecting the Treasury members.
Defence Minister and Deputy Leader of the House Rajnath Singh praised the Speaker for running the House smoothly.
Earlier, amid the ruckus, Birla warned members that they should not stand up to speak and that safety of members during this pandemic was important.
"If anyone gets up to talk. I will take action. I will name them and remove them from the House," Birla said, adding that it would be applicable for all members and ministers.
Keeping in mind social distancing norms in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, members have been asked not to stand while speaking.
In an apparent reference to certain remarks by ruling party members earlier, Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee said such things cannot continue and alleged that the Speaker was trying to protect BJP members.
Banerjee even said that he is also ready to face suspension.
Amid the din, the Speaker first adjourned the proceedings for 30 minutes till 4.20 pm.
After the House reconvened, Sitharaman introduced the bill and then the House took up discussion on supplementary demands.
#WATCH For me, every member is equal & it is my duty to protect every member of this House. If I say anything to anybody, I do it to run the House. I apologise if I have hurt anybody's sentiments: Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla pic.twitter.com/a820LXAT0B— ANI (@ANI) September 18, 2020
However, Congress members led by Gaurav Gogoi demanded an apology from Thakur for his remarks against the Gandhis.
As BJP member Jayant Sinha was speaking on supplementary demands for grants, Congress members raised slogans such as 'Anurag Thakur maafi maango' and 'Goli maro mantri resign'.
Some Congress members entered the Well of the House raising slogans and the Treasury benches did not react to the sloganeering.
Amid the din, the House was adjourned for 30 minutes till 5 pm.
Later, the proceedings were adjourned twice for 30 minutes each till 6 pm.