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Standoff over Selja resolved as Jaitley withdraws remarks

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 03, 2015 20:33 IST
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The standoff between the government and opposition in Rajya Sabha over Congress leader Selja's remarks about her entry to a Gujarat temple was resolved on Thursday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley withdrawing his comment and his ministerial colleague Piyush Goyal expressing regret.

The issue, which stalled proceedings in Rajya Sabha since Wednesday, was resolved after negotiations outside the House among the leaders of various parties, mediated by Chairman Hamid Ansari and Deputy Chairman P J Kurien.

After lunch, when the House re-assembled after repeated adjournments, Jaitley, who is also the Leader of the House, thanked the Chairman and Deputy Chairman for convening meetings of leaders to end the impasse.

"In view of Seljaji's statement that she had made no reference to the main Dwarka temple in her speech on Monday, and which she has reiterated on Wednesday also, the issue raised by me on Wednesday doesn't survive.

"The comments which have been made in the course, I leave it to the Chair to go through it. The concerned minister Mr Goyal has already expressed regret for what he had said," Jaitley said.

Earlier in the day, Goyal, Minister for Coal and Power for whom the opposition was gunning for making comment on Selja's remarks, had expressed regret but the Congress leader had refused to accept it.

Selja, while participating in a debate on the Constitution on Monday, had alleged that she had faced discrimination at the temple when she visited there as a Union minister some years back as she was asked about her caste.

She had alleged that "this was also a form of the Gujarat model", an apparent attack on Narendra Modi.

Commenting on this, Goyal on Wednesday said it was "manufactured discrimination", leading to uproar because of which the House remained deadlocked for most part of the day.

When the House met for the day on Thursday, Congress members continued uproar, demanding apology by Goyal and forcing 30-minute adjournment.

When the House re-assembled, Goyal said, "Sir, in view of the Chair's decision to review the record, I have taken a....I regret the comments made with reference to my distinguished colleague, Kumari Selja."

However, Congress members were unrelenting and stormed the Well as Selja refused to accept the minister's regret. After the House met for the day on Thursday at 11 am and remembered the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy on its 31st anniversary, Congress members created uproar. Slogan-shouting members trooped into the Well demanding apology from the minister.

"Mafi maango, mafi maango (express apology)," they shouted along with "Constitution ka apman bandh karo, bandh karo (stop insulting the Constitution)."

At this point, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu suggested that House be adjourned for a while for a solution to be arrived at.

"In the course of discussion on Commitment to Constitution on 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Babasaheb Ambedkar, certain comments had been made. One of them refers to Gujarat model. I request the Chair to go through the records and, then, take appropriate action because a reference should not be made to a State and its people," he said, explaining the agitating on the ruling side.

The Chairman said he will look into the verbatim record and will then take appropriate action.

After Goyal expressed regret, Ansari said order should be restored after the minister's statement.

However, as Congress members continued to protest, an agitated Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the attitude of Congress members made it clear that they do not want the House to function. "This is not right," he said. 

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