Photo Credit: PTI
If there was any question about the way the Bharatiya Janata Party feels about the sedition case that has rocked Jawaharlal Nehru Unversity, it was laid to rest in Parliament on Wednesday. BJP Members of Parliament Smriti Irani, Anurag Thakur and Venkaiah Naidu took the floor on the second day of the Budget Session with impassioned speeches attacking the Opposition by alleging that its leaders were effectively supporting “anti-nationals”.
“Are you with Afzal Guru, with the people who attacked Parliament or with democracy,”Thakur said in Parliament, going on to attack the Congress Vice President. “Without thinking, Rahul Gandhi is backing anti-national students. They can see India chopped into pieces but we can’t.”
There have been doubts about the aim of the BJP, and its youth wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, in continually bringing up the case of protesters at an event on the JNU campus on February 9, who allegedly shouted anti-national slogans.
The fallout has been complex: It has helped rally BJP supporters behind the nationalism cause, but also resulted in goons spilling out onto the streets (and into the courtrooms) of New Delhi, making the Delhi Police look incompetent. Meanwhile, clumsy attempts at turning the case into something more ominous have resulted in the emergence of doctored videos and Home Ministry referring to an alleged connection to the Lashkar-e-Taiba based on a parody Twitter account.
There have been murmurs of dissent within the BJP, questioning the government’s handling of the issue, and in particular the Home Minister’s capabilities particularly in the aftermath of the Pathankot attacks. Following the Rohith Vemula protests in Hyderabad University coming in the way of the BJP’s efforts at reaching out to Dalits, questions have also been raised over whether the action against JNU has been alienating youngsters around the country.
Nevertheless, the BJP went on the attack.
“Who is innocent? Afzal Guru? Maqbul Bhat? Remember the jawans who gave their lives. If Kashmir is negotiable why should these people lay down their lives?” asked Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu.Mayawati tries to keep the focus on Vemula
Many of those in JNU and even the organisers of the Justice for Rohith campaign have insisted that the sedition cases are simply an attempt to divert matters away from the Hyderabad protests. As a result, the protestors have all attempted to treat the JNU issue as being an extension of the Rohith campaign.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati however may not be on board, possibly because of concerns – echoed across the Left and the Congress – that defending the JNU students too much will open the party up to allegations of being anti-national. She also might be concerned that her main electoral plank, of defending Dalits, would be grabbed by the others in the Opposition.
Instead of allowing the Rajya Sabha to debate both the JNU and Hyderabad incidents together, Mayawati insisted the government should first respond to her demand that the union ministers allegedly linked to Vemula’s suicide should resign, that the university’s Vice Chancellor be sacked and that a Dalit member be included on the judicial committee investigating the case.
“Since the time, BJP came to power at the Centre, nefarious means are being used to impose RSS ideology,” the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said. When the government attempted to move onto a discussion, Mayawati refused to let the house function and the BSP’s efforts – which the Congress and the Left eventually supported – meant the Rajya Sabha didn’t function all day.
Smriti Irani chews scenery
The Human Resources Development minister’s past career as a television actor means she is often subject to snide criticism about saas-bahu serials, but it is occasionally impossible to evaluate her performances in the Parliament without a reference to her acting prowess. And on Wednesday, Irani had a star turn.
First, in the Rajya Sabha, as Mayawati was attempting to push her demand, Irani used some classic hyperbole while trying to insist on a discussion. “First you allow the discussion… You are senior to me. You are a woman. If you want, I am ready to reply. If you are not satisfied with my reply, I am ready to behead myself and lay it on your feet.”
Later, in the Lok Sabha, Irani again atempted to breathe fire, wagging her finger at the Opposition for playing politics over the death of a child.