Kharge invokes Vajpayee's 'raj dharma' remark in Rajya Sabha, BJP members protest 

Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman opposed Kharge's remarks made during his speech in the Upper House on Wednesday.

Published: 08th February 2023 05:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2023 05:07 PM   |  A+A-

Mallikarjun Kharge

Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge speaks in the Rajya Sabha during Budget Session of Parliaent, in New Delhi (Photo | PTI)


NEW DELHI: Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 'raj dharma' remark post the 2002 Gujarat riots, sparking a heated exchange with ruling party members in Rajya Sabha who accused him of quoting the former prime minister "partly to suit their convenience".

Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman opposed Kharge's remarks made during his speech in the Upper House on Wednesday.

Kharge in his speech said, "I will quote Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. He said in Ahmedabad that India's image has been tarnished overseas due to the communal riots. I didn't say this. Atal Bihari ji said this. With what face will I go abroad? Raj dharma has not been followed."

Leader of the House and Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal immediately responded to Kharge's remark, saying Vajpayee agonised with communal riots during the Congress rule, be it in Maharashtra, Bhagalpur or in Gujarat.

Finance Minister Sitharaman also intervened, saying Vajpayee's quote ended with "he (the then chief minister Narendra Modi) is following raj dharma".

Opposition members are quoting the former prime minister "partly to suit their convenience", she said.

Sitharaman's reply led to an uproar in the house with the Opposition demanding she authenticates her statement.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar asked Kharge and Sitharaman to authenticate Vajpayee's quoted remark during the course of the day.

Dhankhar said the Chair "deal will with the situation" if any of Vajpayee's comments was truncated to suit any side as he was a former prime minister, a Bharat Ratna and a great son of this country.

"Any observation made by him, if truncated (and) if not given properly by this (ruling party) side or that (Opposition) side, it is the duty of the Chair to deal with the situation," he said.

Kharge displayed a newspaper report quoting Vajpayee, but the Chairman refused to accept it, saying, "Newspapers reports are no substitute for documentation. You have to authenticate what you said."

In his speech, Kharge also said Gujarat stands among the lower-rung states in terms of infant mortality rate and malnutrition.

"Infant mortality rate in Gujarat is 31 per cent per 1,000 children. Twenty-five per cent of newborns is malnourished. Gujarat is at the 29th position among 30 states. Authenticated! According to Niti Ayog and Harvard, Gujarat is among the lowest on various health indicators," he said.

Six among the lowest performing 10 districts on the list are from Gujarat, he said.

He said Narendra Modi served as the chief minister of Gujarat for 13.5 years and is holding the post of prime minister for nine years.

"Before that also, there was a BJP government (in the state). When you rule for 25-40 years, this is the status in your state and you talk about others," Kharge said.

He also raised the issue of the rise in domestic gas prices, comparing them with the UPA tenure and asked the status of two crore jobs annually as promised by Modi in run-up to the 2014 polls.


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