The standoff in the Rajya Sabha ended Thursday but not before the Congress had stalled morning proceedings with continuing protests against comments by Union ministers about Kumari Selja. Besides, it mounted a fresh offensive, saying it will boycott Union minister V K Singh in both Houses until he apologises for comments he had made in October following the killing of two Dalit children in Haryana.
The Rajya Sabha settled down to business Thursday after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the comment he had made about Selja “doesn’t survive”.
The Congress MP had alleged that she had been asked about her caste at a temple in Dwarka.
“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 yesterday also, the issue raised by me yesterday doesn’t survive,” Jaitley said. “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.”.
Piyush Goyal’s expression of regret in itself had failed to resolve the deadlock. Goyal, Coal and Power Minister, had questioned Selja’s allegation. When Selja had clarified she wasn’t referring to the main Dwarka temple but to Bet Dwarka, a smaller temple, Goyal had said, “This is another incident of manufactured problems and manufactured discrimination.”
On Thursday, Goyal withdrew his remark and expressed regret. “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,” Goyal said.
Selja refused to accept that and Congress MPs trooped into the well chanting, “Maafi mango, maafi mango” and “Samvidhan ka apmaan bandh karo.”
Deputy chairman P J Kurien said there had been a “fruitful” discussion with the leaders of the parties Wednesday. He said any of the Congress members could have asked what the decision was and he would have communicated it. “Today I see no provocation,” he said.
Regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the JD(U) tried to broker peace, but in vain.
“Sir, on your advice, we had a fruitful discussion yesterday,” said Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress. “…We had come up with a simple solution that the Leader of the House (Jaitley) would say a few words and, after that, the gentleman (Goyal) would withdraw and regret his two words,” he added. “Let us do that in that spirit. We want the House to run.”
It was only following Jaitley’s statement that the Rajya Sabha resumed functioning. It took up a discussion on a bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act.