Political party leaders across the board have warned that unless extremely parochial sentiments, like the one displayed by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in the Mumbai Legislative Assembly on Monday, were kept in check and dealt with firmly, the country would face disintegration.

The Congress party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India, the Samajwadi Party, the Lok Janshakti Party and others were one in condemning the unruly behaviour of MNS legislators. They were objecting to Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Abu Asim Azmi taking the oath in Hindi.

Yeh desh bikhar jayega .. sarkar ko isse sakhti se dekhna chahiye [This country will disintegrate, the government must deal with this sternly],” JD (U) president Sharad Yadav said blaming the ruling Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra for not doing enough to deal with the situation created.

He demanded that the MNS legislators who created trouble be “disqualified”.

However, the Congress rejected the charge of being soft towards the rampaging legislators, who snatched the microphone from Mr. Azmi as he tried to take the oath in Hindi, insisting that he should do so in Marathi.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said what the MNS had done, was “constitutionally impermissible, democratically shameful and condemnable.” He warned the repercussions of such actions could be far reaching.

Mr. Singhvi pointed out that many Indian languages were related to each other and using one cannot be seen as an insult to the other. He added “the behaviour of the MNS MLAs cuts at the very root of the Indian Constitution and ethos,” while the right to live and work anywhere in the country and speak in any language is granted to every citizen of the country.

When asked whether the Congress would demand a ban on the MNS, he said “It was not our job to make a martyr of any party, but action should be taken against the MLAs as per the rules of the House.”

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said categorically: “Everyone is free to take the oath in any language that is permitted by the Constitution. What happened was very wrong and stern action needs to be taken against those who created bedlam in the assembly.” At the same time, he added that Mr. Azmi was known to act provocatively, although in this instance he was not at fault.

CPI leader D. Raja said the big parties in Maharashtra — Congress, NCP and the BJP — must realise the danger to democracy from such parochial positions. He said the MNS seems to have a “sinister design” to ignite the worst kind of parochial sentiments. MPs and MLAs in different parts of the country have routinely taken oath in different languages and never has this been made an issue of. What happened in Mumbai must be strongly condemned.

Strong reactions also came from RJD’s Lalu Prasad and LJS’s Ram Vilas Paswan and SP’s Mulayam Singh. “If India splits, it will be because of elements like Raj Thackeray [chief of the MNS]. If urgent steps are not taken to keep such people in check, nobody would be able to save the country from disintegration,” Mr. Prasad said in Patna, according to agency reports.

Congratulating, party MLA Mr. Azmi for “maintaining the honour of the national language,” Mr. Yadav added that Mr. Azmi had done the country proud. Mr. Paswan said the MNS MLAs who assaulted Mr. Azmi and created a problem in the Assembly ought to be arrested immediately. Hindi was the country’s national language and what the MNS indulged in was completely unconstitutional, he was reported to have said.

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