Fate of bills uncertain as government, opposition fight over Smriti Irani comment

New Delhi, Feb 26 (NDTV): There is uncertainty again over the fate of Bills in the Rajya Sabha after the government and opposition clashed on Friday during a debate on the JNU controversy and Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula's suicide.

The row broke out after Education Minister Smriti Irani read from a pamphlet allegedly circulated on the Jawaharlal Nehru University or JNU campus, which had derogatory references to Goddess Durga. She said it showed the "depraved mentality" of a section of JNU students.

The debate was cut short as a united opposition asked for the minister to withdraw her comments and apologise, which led to an adjournment.

Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said, "People in the past have made blasphemous statements about gods, the Prophet and Christ. But never before have these unsavoury remarks been repeated or quoted on the floor of the House."

"The quote was deliberate. The BJP used the entire debate to polarise. What was the need to bring in Goddess Durga? Ms Irani has to apologise," said CPM's Sitaram Yechuri.

The government has stuck to its guns that Ms Irani did not violate any code. "She didn't say anything blasphemous. She was merely trying to build an argument on how in the past objectionable material was generated in JNU," a minister said.

The ball is now in the court of the Rajya Sabha Chairman, who can rule whether the debate in the upper house is alive or over.

Ms Irani was mid-speech when a united opposition forced the House to be adjourned. This raised a piquant situation. Technically, Ms Irani's reply to the debate is not finished, but the government doesn't want to return to the debate and considers it over.

Nothing doing, says the opposition. It wants an apology before any other business can be taken up.

Though not much business is lined up in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, set aside for private member bills, the opposition is not ready to let the issue die and may carry it to the next week when the House start working after the union budget is presented on Monday.

A senior Congress leader said, "the government doesn't want the house to work. The minister deliberately raised a contentious issue. Till an apology is made we won't let the house run."

Ms Irani had read out the same document in the Lok sabha on Wednesday, but the opposition had walked out and so wasn't present in the house to object.


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Title: Fate of bills uncertain as government, opposition fight over Smriti Irani comment

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