The controversy over a derogatory statement, made against former prime minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee by a Congress member during the debate over the Liberhan Commission's report in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, is not likely to die down soon with the party threatening to stall Parliament till he apologises for his remarks.
"I am today both sad and angry at the way the Home Minister (P Chidamabaram) replied to the debate, even as BJP members raised the issue of insult to Vajpayeeji. Even in the din, he continued to reply and nobody bothered to listen to the issue that was being raised by the BJP," Deputy Leader of the party in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters.
She lamented that it happened despite the party assuring Speaker Meria Kumar that the House will "start functioning in 20 seconds" provided Congress member Beni Prasad Verma apologised for 'insulting' Vajpayee.
While Members of Parliament Shahnawaz Hussain and Kirti Azad are demanding that the BJP should not permit the Parliament to function till Verma apologises, Swaraj said a parliamentary party meeting will be held on Wednesday morning to decide the future course of action.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley also suggested that Verma should apologise.
"How could the debate continue without an apology from Verma? How can he be allowed to go away without an apology," he asked.
"People are upset that the government has trivialised the debate. Twenty more members had to speak. Opposition against the insult to Atalji and comments on L K Advani were not taken up," he added.
Jaitley also took on Home Minister P Chidambaram, pointing out loopholes in his reply in the Lok Sabha on the Liberhan debate. "Chidambaram apparently said he will file a case against those who funded the demolition. This seems like an afterthought as he has been part of the government before. How could he wake up to this issue now? There is no basis or evidence to establish the connection between funding of the Ram temple movement and the demolition," Jaitley said.
On Chidambaram's comment that there are two ideologies in India -- one progressive and the other divisive -- Jaitley said, "I don't think Chidambaram has understood the cultural heritage of the country. India has a very rich cultural heritage and Chidambaram is apologetic about India's cultural heritage."
Swaraj said that though Verma spoke about Advani and other members, Vajpayee was not present in the House.
"In such type of debates, no deadline is set for the reply so the Opposition's plea on the insult to Vajpayee should have been taken up," she said.
BJP MP Shahnawaz Hussain said his party will not allow the House to function till Verma apologises.
"Atalji has served the country and the Parliament for several years and nobody will insult him. Till Verma apologises for insulting Vajpayee, the BJP will not let Parliament function," he said. Hussain alleged that the Congress had conspired to make Verma insult Vajpayee.
"Insult to Vajpayee is an insult to the country. But all Verma has to do is apologise," he said.