Jagdeep Dhankhar mimicry row | BJP, Congress trade barbs over ‘insult to Jat community’

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi slams Opposition, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge says caste should not be dragged into everything

December 20, 2023 08:35 pm | Updated 11:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar conducts the proceedings of the House during the Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi on December 20, 2023.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar conducts the proceedings of the House during the Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi on December 20, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress faced off against each other on Wednesday over a mimicry of Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar by Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee, which was perceived as an insult to the Jat community.

On Tuesday, as the video of the act went viral on social media, Mr. Dhankhar referred to it in the Rajya Sabha. Addressing the Opposition benches, he said, “You [Congress] used the official Twitter handle of the spokesperson to demean me, insult me, insult my background as a farmer, my position as a Jat, insult my position as a Chairman.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Wednesday condemned the act. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, he said: “For the first time a farmer’s son of the Jat community has risen to occupy such a high constitutional office, but they [Opposition] have been insulting this constitutional position also.”

The Congress was quick to respond on the issue, with party president Mallikarjun Kharge saying that “caste should not be dragged into every issue”. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Kharge said that Mr. Dhankhar should protect other members of the House instead of making such statements.

“I am not allowed to speak in Rajya Sabha often. Should I say it is because I am a Dalit,” Mr. Kharge said, adding that they should not incite people outside in the name of caste by talking about it inside.

Congress MP Randeep Surjewala, who belongs to the Jat community, pointed to the farmers’ protests being put down by the government and the use of pejorative terms by BJP members. He also raised the issue of women wrestlers who had held protests against a BJP MP.

“Those in high positions should reflect on what is the yardstick of dignity of high office. Whether they are President, Vice-President, Prime Minister or any constitutional post holder, they are above caste and their duty is to uphold the Constitution. By suspending 141 Opposition MPs in the last couple of days, they should reflect whether they are doing their duty,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Jat community group, the Palam 360 Khap, called a meeting of its members and threatened to organise protests unless Mr. Banerjee tendered an apology.

The Jat community, largely agrarian, is spread across western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. It played a significant part during the farmers’ protests of 2020-2021 against the three farm laws. The women wrestlers who had raised allegations of sexual harassment against BJP MP and former Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also belong to that community. All this makes the situation piquant in political terms as well. 

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