A fortnight after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi talked about “destroying relationships” in the name of the flag, his party hounded out an MLA for not saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
The Congress joined the BJP, NCP and Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra Assembly Wednesday to get AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan suspended. They backed a resolution moved by Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil, disapproving of Pathan’s behaviour and suspending him for the remainder of the Budget session.
At one point, cabinet minister and BJP leader Eknath Khadse said an apology from the AIMIM MLA would do but he was shouted down by Congress members who sought suspension of Pathan and were immediately backed by the NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena.
Leader of Opposition and Congress MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said: “If anybody insults national sentiments, it cannot be tolerated. I demand strong action against the member for insulting the country.”
Shiv Sena MLA Gulabrao Patil said, “Is desh mein rehna hai, kutton, toh Vande Mataram bolna hoga” (If you wants to stay in this country, dogs, you will have to say Vande Mataram.”
BJP members isolated Pathan (Byculla) and Imtiaz Jaleel (Aurangabad) — the two MLAs of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM — during the debate on the Governor’s address to the House and chanted ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ near their seats.
Later, outside the House, Pathan protested his suspension: “I am willing to say Jai Hind. I love my country. My objection is why should someone put words in my mouth and make me say what they want. My objection is to their forcing me to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.”
“I have done no wrong. At least they should have allowed me to speak in the assembly before suspending me. It is undemocratic. I am an elected member. We respect rules and laws,” he said.
It all started when Jaleel, participating in the debate, argued that allocation of funds for memorials could be put to better use in works such as improving hospitals. At this point, Shiv Sena and BJP members said: “Don’t you respect patriots? First say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.”
When BJP’s Ram Kadam told the AIMIM MLAs to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, Pathan protested: “I will not say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.”
This angered the other legislators. Congress and NCP members joined the BJP and Sena to demand action against Pathan. The din led to repeated adjournments.
Congress MLA Abdul Sattar, among the most vocal in the House, said: “The AIMIM politics is giving minorities a bad name across the country and outside. Their anti-national politics does not augur well for the community and can have far reaching implications on communal harmony.”
Minister Khadse said, “The stand taken by AIMIM Tuesday and in the state assembly today are the darkest days… How can you disrespect Mother India?”
NCP leader Jayant Patil also justified his party’s support for action against Pathan.
Reacting to the suspension of his party MLA, Owaisi told PTI: “This is for the first time in the history of Indian democracy that an elected member has been suspended for not raising a slogan… where in the Constitution is it written that an elected member will be suspended if he does not shout a slogan?”
He also slammed the Congress and NCP: “We are heading into an age of darkness. By supporting the suspension motion, Congress and NCP, who call themselves secular, have been completely exposed.”
Meanwhile, a private complaint was filed Wednesday in a Hyderabad court seeking direction to police to register a case against Owaisi over a speech where he said he would not chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ even if a “knife is put to my throat”.
A PTI report said petitioner Sai Kumar Goud, a businessman, filed a complaint in the court of 20th Metropolitan Magistrate at Malkajgiri alleging that Owaisi’s speech was defamatory, and sought direction to police for registration of an FIR under IPC section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).