A statement by CPM lawmaker in Parliament left Home Minister Rajnath Singh “deeply hurt” and angry. It also led to Lok Sabha being adjourned multiple times during the discussion on the much-hyped ‘intolerance’ issue.
It began when the CPM member said that in the wake of BJP’s stupendous victory in the last general election Rajnath had claimed that Narendra Modi will be first Hindu ruler in 800 years after the centuries old era of Prithviraj Chauhan.
Rajnath challenged Salim saying he never made this statement and the MP must authenticate where and when he had made it, else apologise to him and the House for making an irresponsible statement. In his defence, Salim produced a copy of the 16 November edition of the Outlook magazine with the cover ‘The Pakistan-isation of India’. The longish cover story of the magazine has a one-line reference to it: The current strife is uncharted territory. It has the imprimatur of the “first Hindu ruler after 800 years” (to quote Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Modi’s election victory).
A senior BJP leader told Firstpost that Outlook “would now be served a rebuttal and a notice” either by Rajnath Singh’s office or by someone from the BJP. “It had not come to our notice so far, at least the Home minister was not aware of publication any such statement attributed to him. The magazine and the writer concerned will have to do a lot of explaining. Do you imagine if he had actually said so this would have become big national and even international headline? It could not have been noticed only by the writer in Outlook magazine.”
After the controversy broke in Parliament, Outlook clarified the quote was wrongly attributed to Rajnath and tweeted: “It was not our intention to denigrate the home minister or Parliament. Outlook sincerely regrets the embarrassment caused to Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Mohammad Salim.” The tweet provided a link to a page where Outlook said, “… A remark (‘first Hindu ruler after 800 years’) made by the late Ashok Singhal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was erroneously attributed to… Rajnath Singh.”
Rajnath was visibly angry as he got up for the second time to interrupt the CPM leader. “In my long parliamentary life I have not been hurt like this. I have never said anything like this. I know what I speak. My words are always measured. If anyone makes a statement like this he has no right to be Home minister of the country, least of all myself. I am deeply hurt. People of minority community also know that Rajnath Singh can never speak like this.”
Salim’s arguments in defence, later incidentally supported by Left Front’s arch rival in West Bengal TMC’s Saugata Roy, cut no ice with the ruling party. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudi insisted that Salim withdraw his statement.
Attribution of such a statement to Rajnath by implication means that he is not just a blind Modi bhakt but also an irrational, irresponsible, rabid and highly regressive Hindutavadi mainstream leader who did not accept any of Indian ruler before and after Independence as Hindu, not even Atal Bihari Vajapyee during whose tenure he held various ministries at the Centre and was also Uttar Pradesh chief minister. He is bent on setting the record right, more so because he holds the high post of Home minister and is the designated Number Two in the Modi government.
A generally measured and quiet Rajnath Singh has become this upset for the second time in the last 16 months and threatened to quit if the charges against him were proved right. In August 2014 he was angry against a group of anonymous persons for spreading rumours that his son Pankaj was fixing deals. He had reacted, saying: “In the last 15-20 days, there have been continuous rumours in the air about me and my family. I thought rumours have no basis and these will end in some days. But I am seeing that these are gaining momentum by the day. I want to assure the nation that the day allegations, even prima facie or even small, are proven against me or my family, I will quit politics and public life and sit at home.”
In today’s instance, he was accused of making an irresponsible and condemnable statement. Singh knows the implication if it is allowed to go uncontested. He has consciously cultivated his politics as a moderate leader, even as he has internalised the broad contours of Hindutva, and he has good rapport with all in the current political spectrum. He represents Lucknow, a city which boasts of communal amity. It was thus supremely important for him that the record was set right. This time within Parliament.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Mohd Salim talks about his side of the story.
He says that he was keen this discussion goes on record since the House had been adjourned multiple times already. He says “ they tried to force me to withdraw” which he refused. He stresses that he is not alleging, rather he is “quoting” from a magazine and that “they” must deny this quote if they stand against it.
“The Sangh Parivar’s teaching is that they were slaves for hundreds of years and I wanted to bring that to the nation’s notice. Let them deny publicly that this is not what the Sangh Parivar’s teaching is,” says Salim.
Salim claims there is no difference between what the government says are fringe elements and what its own core ideology is.
“The Sangh Parivar network from the top trains its cadres in this fashion,” he told the newspaper.
Salim says the ruling government is trying to “distort” the discourse by saying that the intolerance debate is a “section’s” view but in fact it is not.
“Even in his ( Modi’s) speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday, apart from his body language, he did not come to the current challenges. Modi should have spoken against the incidents. He did not do so,” says Salim.