Intolerance debate heats up in House, BJP talks 'Hitler, Emergency' to hit back at Opposition

PTI
Published Nov 27, 2015, 5:21 pm IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 11:00 pm IST
Govt has only one book that it should follow - the Constitution, says PM
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. (Photo: Screengrab)
 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. (Photo: Screengrab)

New DelhiUnder fire over the 'intolerance' issue, the government earlier cited Hitler's actions in Germany in 1930s to target the Congress in Rajya Sabha and said the Emergency in 1975 had "subverted" the Constitution. Dictatorship was at its worst then as right to life and liberty were suspended, finance Minister Arun jaitley told the Rajya Sabha.

Initiating a discussion on the 'Commitment to India's Constitution', Jaitley said measures should be taken to strengthen the Constitution and ensure that democracy was not subverted again.

 

Jaitley narrated the sequence of events that took place in Hitler's regime, suggesting that these were replicated by Indira Gandhi who imposed Emergency in 1975.

"There are worst illustrations in history when Constitutional systems are used to subvert the Constitution... You have the most glaring example in the world when in 1933, Emergency was declared in Germany," he said, while countering the attack on goverment on 'intolerance'.

He said Hitler, using the pretext of a threat to "set ablaze the German Parliament", imposed Emergency, detained the Opposition to gain majority for amending the Constitution, censured the press and came out with a 25-point economic programme.

"Thereafter, they brought a law that no action taken by the government was justifiable in court. Then Hitler's immediate adviser Rudolf Hess in a speech said: 'Adolf Hitler is Germany, Germany is Adolf Hitler'," Jaitley said.

Though he said he was only referring to the events of 1933 in Germany, Jaitley was apparently citing similarities to actions during Indira Gandhi's regime when it was said 'Indira is India, India is Indira'.

"Germany never claimed a copyright to what happened in other parts of the world later," he added.

"The biggest challenge we faced (during Emergency) was that Article 21 was suspended and citizens lost even the right to life and liberty. This was dictatorship at its worst," Jaitley said.

When some member from the Opposition benches said comparisons should not be drawn, the Finance Minister retorted: "Of course, there is no comparison. The difference is between a mouse and a mole hill".

He noted that after the Emergency period was over, the Constitution was amended to make Article 21 "permanently non-suspendable.. So, today we are far more safe."

Jaitley, who also holds the portfolio of Information and Broadcasting, added, "We should block all systems by which Constitution or Constitutional systems could be used to subvert democracy... We must all be prepared to strengthen each institution of democracy."

Seeking to needle the Opposition which has been targeting the government over 'intolerance', he asked how the House would react if Ambedkar had made his 1949 speech today for implementing Article 44 (that calls for bringing in Uniform Civil code) and Article 48 (that calls for prohibiting cow slaughter).

He stressed there should be no state religion and theocracy should not be practised as enshrined in the Constitution.

In the present times, he said, the "biggest challenge" to any Constitutional system in the world is terrorism and there should be a united fight against it instead of some adopting a "soft" approach for vote bank politics.

In the Lok Sabha Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had also insisted that the term 'secular' would remain part of the Preamble of the Constitution.

"Today there is no threat to the Constitution, no Emergency, there are no arrests (of political rivals), no supercession of judges. We must work together to strengthen the Constitution," Naidu said in the Lok Sabha while participating in the discussion on commitment to India's Constitution.

Responding to the debate on the term secularism witnessed in the House yesterday, he said the word is part of the Preamble "and will remain so. But what I want to say is that it should be in our hearts and should remain."

At the same time, he hit out at 'pseudo secularists' saying those who followed politics on the basis of caste and communal lines "call others as anti secular."

"People get swayed and misled by caste and religion. Then for five years, they cannot do anything," he said.

The government kept up the same tune on Lok Sabha too. It dismissed the Opposition’s charge that the Constitution of India was under threat and once again used the ‘Emergency’ to hit back at the Congress.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu insisted the term 'secular' will remain part of the Constitution’s preamble.

"Today there is no threat to the Constitution, no Emergency, there are no arrests (of political rivals), no supercession of judges. We must work together to strengthen the Constitution," Naidu said in the Lok Sabha while participating in the discussion on the ‘commitment to India's Constitution’.

Responding to the debate on the term secularism yesterday, he said the word is part of the Preamble "and will remain so. But what I want to say is it should be in our hearts too”.

At the same time, he hit out at 'pseudo secularists' saying it is ironical those who follow politics on the basis of caste and communal lines should "call others as anti secular".

"People get swayed and misled by caste and religion. Then for five years, they cannot do anything," he said. Naidu's remarks came in the backdrop of Congress President Sonia Gandhi targetting the government yesterday on the issue of intolerance. She alleged ideals and principles of the Constitution were under threat and were being deliberately attacked. 

Noting there was a need to reject pseudo-secularism, Naidu said the goal should be development of all and appeasement of none.

On the issue of intolerance, he disapproved of several leaders of the BJP and Sangh Parivar who have made controversial statements. "The fringe elements should be secluded," he remarked.

Without naming any BJP or Opposition leader, the Union minister was also critical of "making statements in the country and in neighbouring countries".

He targetted Congress over the controversial remarks made by former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and another Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer in Pakistan recently.

He said he had expected Congress President Sonia Gandhi would condemn the remarks which never happened. "I don't think she approved of the remarks," he said.

Naidu claimed Aiyar had asked Pakistan to "overthrow" Modi for better Indo-Pak relations. He did not name Khurshid but said the former External Affairs Minister had also made controversial remarks abroad.

When Naidu questioned the silence of Congress on their remarks at a time when Pakistan was trying to create trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi herself hit back wondering why the present government "did not stop" Islamabad from fomenting trouble.

Continuing her attack, she reminded the Treasury benches of the recent 'dog' remarks by Union Minister V K Singh. "What did your minister say," she asked while other Congress members named Singh who was not present.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said Aiyar was not a Congress Working Committee member and was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha. He said since he was not a Lok Sabha member, Naidu should have refrained from taking his name.

As the war of words continued, Naidu recalled the statement of another Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed who had said the government narrative would have been "different" had Chhota Rajan and ULFA leader Anup Chetia been Muslims.

But Naidu continued his tirade referring to the statement of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi that Hindi-speaking people were trying to take control of the northeastern state.

Responding to Kharge's remarks yesterday that Aryans had invaded India, Naidu said B R Ambedkar had dismissed the Aryan Vs Shudra theory in his book. "I will send a copy of the book to Khargeji as I know he does read," he said, taking a dig at the Congress leader. 

In a veiled attack on the Congress, Naidu said some people build and create cults but later become its casualty. "Now they are advising us," he said. Kharge was quick to hit back saying that BJP itself was a believer of cults.

Naidu countered saying if Kharge was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then he should realise that the PM is the "maker of developed India" and “that fact had been acknowledged world over’.

He said some in the Opposition have not been able to "tolerate" the verdict of the people in favour of BJP. When an Opposition leader reminded him of the Bihar results, Naidu said lessons should be learnt.

The senior BJP leader was also critical of “people and fascists" who had moved the United Nations and had approached countries like the US and the UK to deny Modi with a visa.

"You see the reception he received at Maddison Square... it is not a reception for him, but for India," he said.

He said issues like Common Civil Code, Women's Reservation Bill, though important, cannot be done without consultation.

On the issue of Women's Reservation Bill, he said: "Time now is not to talk but to walk, as government believes the Opposition is hesitant while the Opposition thinks the government is hesitant. People think both are hesitant."

He acknowledged there are fears that if women get 33 per cent reservation in Lok Sabha and state legislative Assemblies, the seats of several sitting members would be usurped.

During his 90-minute speech, Naidu appreciated the contribution of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani in shaping and strengthening the party and said he has learnt a lot from senior party leaders like them.

Calling for a united fight against terrorism, Jaitley told Rajya Sabha the entire country should speak in one voice and nobody should be "seen soft" on terrorism.

"The biggest challenge to any Constitutional system in the world is terrorism. We have to fight that challenge together. Sometimes, for vote bank politics, we hold ourselves back from criticising the way we should. This is the result of the last 65 years," he said, in an apparent attack on Congress.

In this context, he referred to the 2001 attack on Parliament, Mumbai blasts of 1993 and serial blasts on local trains in Mumbai in 2006.

In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley also made a veiled reference to the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon who was hanged few months back and said "The manner in which he was passed off as a martyr... somebody who virtually massacred Mumbai. How would have Dr Ambedkar reacted to this?"

Quoting Ambedkar's famous speech delivered on November 25, 1949 while proposing the Constitution document, Jaitley said the Constitution-maker had raised apprehensions on whether India would be able to maintain its independence.

"When countries are challenged, the country should speak in one voice. Therefore, those who seek to destroy sovereignties, countries cannot be seen to be ever supporting them...," he said, citing historical events relating to Jai Chand and Gulab Singh.

At this some Congress members raised a ruckius and asked Jailtey to specify what he meant. The Finance Minister said he was only referring to acts of terrorism. "I have no hesitation in saying that nobody in this country should ever be seen as soft on that kind of terrorism".

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