The BJP went on an offensive in Rajya Sabha on Friday, seeking Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s apology for his remarks on Thursday, which were expunged. The Congress, on the other hand, sought an apology from the Prime Minister for the problems faced by people due to demonetisation. The war of words stalled House proceedings for the second consecutive day and led to several adjournments.
BJP members led by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi demanded an apology from Azad for his remarks “comparing terrorism with the effects of demonetisation”.
Azad, backed by his party, remained firm and hit back at the BJP by raking up the Kandahar hostages-for-terrorists swap.
Outside the House, Azad lashed out at the BJP. Justifying his remarks, he said he had not compared Pakistan and India. “This is their communal mind. BJP cannot think beyond communalism. They did it when they were out of power. Now they have become the ruling party, but still want to thrive on communalism…And who are posing as nationalists? those who released Masood Azhar from the jails of Kashmir and flew him to Kandahar with great respect and with money and handed him over to the enemy?”
“He was escorted by no less than the foreign minister of India. And that Masood Azhar was the one who attacked Parliament. And that party is questioning our nationalism. They should check their DNA first and their party’s DNA. What is their role in the freedom struggle? We don’t need a certificate from the BJP on who is national and who is anti-national,” he said.
Azad recalled how his brother-in-law was kidnapped by militants in 1990 and held captive for over six months. “I had said then that the demand of my brother-in-law’s abductors for releasing detained militants was unacceptable to the family. Will any BJP leader make such a statement if a member of their family is kidnapped. My father spent four days in the jungle without food and water because terrorists had entered our house. My younger brother was attacked once. I have survived many attacks…. They are calling us anti-national. Inko tho choohe ne bi nahin kata hain, leave aside militants,” he said.
Deputy Congress leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said the BJP was looking for cover. He said PM Narendra Modi has converted Incredible India to indelible India and that applying ink on the fingers of those exchanging old notes was like the “Nazis branding people”. He said the BJP government has done a “lasting damage” to the Indian economy with the demonetisation move.
Sharma further said imposing ceiling on withdrawal of cash from banks was illegal as the government has no legal and constitutional authority to deny people access to money in their accounts. “The only time this is done is when Article 360 of the Constitution is invoked to impose financial emergency,” he said. The PM is “hiding away like a coward” and dared him to “face Parliament if he has the courage,” he said.