New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday quickly disowned the controversial remarks of Ananth Kumar Hegde, Union minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship, about changing the Constitution and about secularists, after the Opposition created a huge ruckus in Parliament demanding that he be sacked for “disrespecting” the Constitution and Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the “Father of the Constitution”.
Both Houses witnessed repeated adjournments despite the Chair requesting the Opposition members to allow the proceedings to take place. The Opposition members even trooped into the well of both Houses, shouting slogans like “Babasaheb ka apman nahin sahega Hindustan (The nation will not tolerate disrespect towards Babasaheb Ambedkar)”.
“I want to clarify that the government is committed to the Constitution and we do not agree with what the minister (Hegde) had said,” MoS parliamentary affairs Vijay Goel said in the Rajya Sabha, that witnessed two adjournments till 2 pm.
Mr Hegde had reportedly said on Sunday at an event in Koppal district of Karnataka that people should identify themselves by their religion and “those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don’t have their own identity... they don’t know about their parentage”.
He also said, “We are here to change the Constitution and we’ll change it.” Assembly elections are due early next year in Karnataka, which is now ruled by a Congress government.
Leading the Opposition’s attack in the Upper House, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Minister of State for skill development needed to clarify his remarks as he was present in the House and that if he does not believe in the Constitution, he has no right to be a Member of Parliament or a minister.
Amid the Opposition’s slogan-shouting, chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu also allowed the BJP’s Subramanian Swamy to speak, who said Dr Ambedkar had not included the word “secularism” in the Constitution and that the Opposition had no right to “drag his name” into the issue, saying that previous Congress governments had “denied Bharat Ratna year after year to Dr Ambedkar”.
His statement only intensified the protests by the Opposition, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House.
The term “secular” was incorporated in the Preamble of the Constitution through the 42nd Amendment in 1976 during the Emergency.
In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition virtually paralysed the proceedings demanding action against Mr Hegde. Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge said the minister had compared those supporting secularism to “children of unknown parentage”, besides denigrating Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution....