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Congress objects to Dhankhar censor of Kharge's speech

DECCAN CHRONICLE | Age Correspondent

Published on: February 9, 2023 | Updated on: February 9, 2023

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

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Thursday raised an objection to Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar deleting some portions of Leader of the Opposition (LoP) Mallikarjun Kharge's speech from official records. The party argued that the LoP used no unparliamentary words and some of the expressions he employed were earlier used by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Mr Dhankar, however, ruled out a review, saying he has already taken a call.

At the start of the day's proceedings in Rajya Sabha, Congress MPs were up on their feet, questioning the rationale behind the expunging some remarks made Mr Kharge on Wednesday, when similar ones were made by former PMs Manmohan Singh and Vajpayee and in the House and continue to be part of the proceedings.

Responding to the Chair’s comments, Mr Kharge said that things said in the House as per rules and procedures during the discussion on the motion thanking the President for her address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament at the start of the Budget Session cannot be expunged.

"I neither used any unparliamentary word or language nor made any allegation against anyone," the LoP said. "Yet you pick out some words... I won't say you misinterpreted them, but if you had any doubt you could have sought clarification in a different fashion."

Instead, six different parts of speech were expunged, Mr Kharge said, again referring to an expression he had used on Wednesday to describe Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Chairman then asked him not to say it again.

However, the LoP said these were the same words that were used in the House on previous occasions as well. "Vajpayee had used the same expression for (ex-Prime Minister) P.V. Narasimha Rao. It is still part of the record, you can see that."

When party leaders, including chief whip Jairam Ramesh, try to raise a point, they are cut short, Mr Kharge said. "You say this is not right... You sit down... You should read. He (Mr Ramesh) has been educated at Harvard University and knows Hindi, Kannada, English... what other language should he know? And knows parliamentary language, yet you keep interrupting him. This is not right."

Mr Kharge asked Mr Dhankhar to look into the records.

When Mr Kharge said that whoever comes to his defence is interrupted by the Chair, Mr Dhankhar said the ultimate defender of the LoP is the Chair.

"But that is not happening," Mr Kharge shot back. "You are expunging."

Earlier, Mr Ramesh said that Mr Kharge had only used parliamentary words and language. "What is the use of speaking when it is expunged? This is wrong... We can't accept this (ruling to expunge)."

On Mr Ramesh’s remark, the Chairman retorted back, saying, "What do you mean by 'nahi man sakte' (can't accept)"

"What do you mean by being so judgmental," Mr Dhankhar asked Mr Ramesh. "I am surprised," he said.

Speaking on the issue, Congress MP Mukul Wasnik said the Opposition parties gave notices seeking discussion on the matter but the Chairman rejected them, saying MPs will be free to speak on the subject during the debate on the motion thanking the President for her address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.

The Leader of the Opposition expressed his views during the debate on the motion on Wednesday but "you have expunged it," he said. "Which part of LoP's speech was unparliamentary," he asked.

Another Congress MP Pramod Tiwari said the words that Mr Kharge used to describe the Prime Minister were previously spoken in Parliament as well as in the state Assemblies of Odisha and Karnataka. "They are entirely parliamentary."

Former Prime Minister had previously used the same words in Rajya Sabha, and it is part of the House records, he claimed.

Mr Tiwari asked the Chair to uphold parliamentary traditions because Mr Kharge was speaking in accordance with his directive to express his views on the subject during the debate on the Motion of Thanks rather than raising it via a 267 notice. "I request you that the words that have been expunged should continue to remain part of the proceedings," he said.

Urging the MPs again to maintain the decorum of the House, Mr Dhankhar said, "I examined the proceedings in light of the rules framed by the House. And Rule 261 casts an obligation on me... To make such sweeping observations that everything has been removed is not appropriate. I expect the honourable members to first go through what has been expunged."

When Congress MPs pressed, Mr Dhankhar said, "I have taken my call."