Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey on Thursday demanded removal of Shashi Tharoor as the parliamentary committee on information technology chief while his party colleague Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore accused the Congress leader of "undermining" the panel's work, marking a sharp escalation in the ruling party's attack on the opposition party MP over the Facebook row.
Dubey and Rathore wrote to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla against Tharoor's conduct as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Commmittee on IT, with the Jharkhand MP claiming that the Congress leader was "running the affairs of the committee in a thoroughly unprofessional manner and to serve his political agenda of spreading rumours and defaming my party (BJP)".
Dubey has been leading his party's charge on Tharoor after the Congress leader spoke of summoning Facebook India executives following a Wall Street Journal report that claimed that the social media giant refused to apply hate speech rules to certain ruling party politicians.
Both leaders also sniped at each other on social media and then filed notices of breach of privilege against each other with the Speaker's office on Wednesday.
Citing the Lok Sabha rules, Dubey in a fresh letter requested the Speaker to appoint any other member as the chairman of the committee in Tharoor's place.
"It is now an impossibility to regulate the affairs of the committee on Information Technology in accordance with the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha...," he said, seeking Tharoor's removal.
Taking a dig at Tharoor, who is known for his polished English and debating skills, Dubey alleged that "speaking in 'Spenserian' English with a foreign accent does not give freedom to an individual to not only disregard our glorious parliamentary institutions/organs to meet his own political ambitions but also to abuse our constitution."
"..it would be highly improper for Dr. Shashi Tharoor to continue and regulate the proceedings of the committee. I, therefore, appeal to your good self to persuade Dr. Tharoor to proceed on leave and thereafter,... choose another member of the Committee to act as Chairperson," Dubey said in his letter.
Accusing Tharoor of issuing statements as to who would be summoned and what would be the agenda of the meeting without discussing the matter first with the committee's members Rathore said this was "absolutely uncalled for" and is "violative" of the procedures of Lok Sabha.
"The proclivity of the IT committee chairman to speak to the media first undermines the functioning of the committee members and the committee itself," Rathore said in his letter to the LS Speaker.
Like Dubey, the former Union minister is also a member of the committee which Tharoor heads.
Rathore said the IT committee members have no issue on "summoning whosoever the committee feels needs to be summoned for the protection of the rights of citizens of our country" but added that the matter should be discussed in the panel first.
Following the US media report of Facebook allegedly not applying its hate speech rules to some BJP leaders, Tharoor had expressed his view about summoning the company's officials before the committee due to the "serious nature" of allegations.
Meanwhile, according to the Lok Sabha secretariate, the parliamentary panel will meet on September 2 to "hear the views of the representatives of Facebook on the subject of 'safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space".
Besides Facebook, the committee has also asked representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remain present on September 2.