NEW DELHI: Speaking in the context of the political divide over a sedition case being slapped against JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and pro-Afzal Guru slogans being raised on the campus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a meeting of political leaders on Tuesday that no side has the right to foist its view on the other.
Modi’s remarks came in response to Congress and Left leaders criticizing the police action and their assertion that a threatening atmosphere had been building up in the country with political opponents being labelled “anti-national”.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad referred to the JNU event that triggered the current controversy — where slogans were raised in support of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru — to say that earlier, Muslims were called “Pakistanis” and now, a Kanhaiya Kumar was also being referred to in the same manner.
The Congress leader’s reference to “sacrifices” of its past icons was, however, interrupted by Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujral, who said the party would do a good turn by allowing Parliament to function.
CPI leader D Raja questioned how the party’s students’ wing AISF, to which Kanhaiya belongs, could be labelled anti-national. CPM leader Mohammad Saleem accused BJP of trying to intimidate students by saying that if police could enter temples, they could do the same with regard to campuses. Raja also said he had been receiving threatening calls.
Though Modi backed BJP’s unapologetic stance on the JNU incident and police action that followed by suggesting there were two narratives about what happened on the campus and whether a case of sedition was justified, he also sought to assuage the opposition by saying he was keen to hear everyone. “You have as much claim on me as my party even though I am a representative of the BJP,” he is understood to have said.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley responded to the JNU issue in more detail, saying attention should be paid to the slogans raised as they were clearly anti-national. There was a need to identify the people who organized this meeting, he said.
Though Congress and Left parties dwelled on the JNU incident at some length, the issue did not seem to find much resonance with other parties, many of whom wanted Parliament to function. “There seems to be a design to disrupt the functioning of Parliament,” BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab is understood to have said, though he added the opposition was not alone to blame for this.
Leaders who attended the meeting noticed the emphasis placed by Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Azad on the party’s objection to the PM’s statement during campaigning in Assam that “one family” was responsible for stalling Parliament. They said this was a rude remark and very unnecessary.
The objection to the remark was seen in the context of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s absence from Tuesday’s deliberations. Though she does not speak much at such meetings, Sonia usually attends discussions called during Parliament sessions.
Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to Sonia but she expressed her inability to attend the meeting. On Tuesday morning, she sent a letter to Naidu, formally informing him of her decision.
Apart from Congress and Left, other parties like Trinamool said they were in favour of Parliament functioning smoothly. Parties like AIADMK, TRS and DMK also referred to regional issues. Intererstingly, Congress’s allies JD(U) and RJD also did not dwell on the JNU controversy and called for functioning of Parliament as did the NCP. RJD’s Prem Gupta said even his grand-daughter wondered about the utility of MPs going to Parliament when it did not function most of the time.
BSP representative Satish Mishra said the party was doubly disadvantaged as it stayed out of TV debates and also found Parliament to be non-functional. Congress leader Anand Sharma also spoke of the role of TV debates that he said were becoming unproductive.
SP leader Ramgopal Yadav supported other regional parties in calling for smooth functioning of Parliament.