Special Correspondent

BJP, Shiv Sena allege bid by Government to appease minority community

  • Singing of national song not compulsory: Arjun Singh
  • Electoral politics behind change in stand: Manohar Joshi
  • No question of disrespect to national song: Somnath

    NEW DELHI: Parliament was rocked on Tuesday over the controversy on the mandatory rendition of "Vande Mataram" in schools.

    The Rajya Sabha was adjourned four times, while the Lok Sabha witnessed two adjournments and disruption of question hour.

    In the upper House, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena members charged Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh with trying to appease a minority community by rescinding an earlier decision on its compulsory recitation. This evoked loud protests from the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, leading to an adjournment of the House.

    Centenary year

    Making an intervention in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Singh clarified that the Government never said singing of "Vande Mataram" would be "compulsory" on September 7, when the country celebrates the conclusion of the national song's centenary year. He had written to all the Chief Ministers asking "Vande Mataram" to be sung on that day, but he never said everybody should be forced to do it.

    Mr. Singh's clarification resulted in an uproar. Members of the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress raised slogans. Despite repeated appeals from the Chair, they did not relent, forcing Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to adjourn the house till 11.30 a.m., and then again for another 20 minutes.

    Mr. Chatterjee said while it was his duty to give an opportunity to all members to raise issues, no one could diminish the importance of "Vande Mataram." There was no question of any disrespect to the national song.

    Raising the issue in Rajya Sabha during zero hour, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP) charged the Government with rescinding its decision "after some fundamentalist groups opposed it on the ground of religion."

    The issue was not about the national song being made "compulsory" or "mandatory;" it was a "constitutional arrangement" that had to be adhered to, Mr. Naqvi said.

    Acrimonious scenes

    Shiv Sena member Manohar Joshi said he could not imagine that anybody would be opposed to "Vande Mataram," written by Bankim Chandra

    Chattopadhyay in the honour of those who sacrificed their lives for the country. "The Minister changed his stand to appease a particular community for electoral politics," he said, sparking acrimonious scenes in the House and forcing another adjournment.

    When the House reassembled, Congress members wanted Mr. Joshi to withdraw his remarks. He said his words were aimed at the Minister, and not at a particular community. This led to a disagreement, and the Chair was forced to adjourn the House again till lunch after BJP members raised slogans and chanted "Vande Mataram."

    Post lunch, there were two more adjournments. Apart from the "Vande Mataram" issue, members of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam, the Telugu Desam Party and the SP brandished copies of a book, which alleged collusion between Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and an industrialist to jack up prices on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Deputy Chairman Rehman Khan finally adjourned the House for the day at 4 p.m.

    Bills passed

    Amidst amidst the din, the House passed Appropriation (No. 4) Bill, 2006, and the Appropriation (Railways) Bill, 2006. The Bills were returned to the Lok Sabha, which earlier passed them.

    The House also approved with a voice vote the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, which seeks to set up the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The Bill was passed with 27 amendments to make it tribal-friendly. Minister for Environment and Forests A. Raja's reply to the discussion could not be heard in the din.