Under fire for his remarks that the BJP would “change the Constitution” and “people who call themselves secularists… are like people without parentage or who don’t know their bloodline”, Minister of State for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Anantkumar Hegde apologised Thursday, saying “I can’t think of violating the Constitution”.
Hegde’s remarks Sunday in Koppal district of Karnataka created a furore and members in both Houses of Parliament demanded his resignation from the Council of Ministers. In Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the matter as soon as the House met Thursday. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan intervened to say that the minister was being allowed to make a statement. Hegde said he meant no disrespect to the Constitution, Parliament and Babasaheb Ambedkar.
“For me, the Constitution and Parliament are supreme. There is no question about it. As a citizen, I can’t think of violating the Constitution,” he said. As Congress members began protesting, the Speaker reminded Hegde that there was no harm in apologising. “At times, even without intending to hurt someone, you might end up hurting them. I always maintain that your stature is never lowered if you apologise. You can at least say that in case anyone has been hurt, you apologise,” Mahajan told the minister.
When Hegde said his statement was being presented in a twisted manner, Opposition members again protested. He then said: “I never meant it that way but if anyone was hurt, then I have no objection in tendering an apology to the respected members.” In Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of Hegde’s remarks and said the Congress wanted to know whether a person, who did not believe in the Constitution, could continue in the Council of Ministers.
At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said Hegde “has clarified in Lok Sabha that his remarks have been twisted and he respects Babasaheb Ambedkar. He has also expressed regret if his statement has hurt the sentiments of anyone … after his clarification, there is no issue left”. As the Congress continued to raise the issue, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House until noon, and then again until 2 pm. Meanwhile, Congress MPs led by Rahul Gandhi staged a protest near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament House, demanding the resignation of Hegde.