NEW DELHI:Congress leader Anand Sharma’s criticism of new President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech today sparked acrimonious exchanges between the government and opposition in parliament. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Mr Sharma’s speech should be expunged.
The main opposition party has called President Kovind’s inaugural speech disappointing, saying there was no mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister and the Congress’s tallest icon.
“Every country and society respects nation builders, so has been the culture in India. Like Gandhi is respected and has the highest stature in the nation. Along with him was Jawaharlal Nehru who even went to jail,” Mr Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha.
“Gandhi was compared to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay yesterday,” he commented, referring to a leader revered by the ruling BJP.
Shouts of outrage erupted from the government benches and Mr Jaitley angrily called for Mr Sharma’s entire speech to be deleted from the records.
“The Chair must be guided by a principle that you can’t have a zero Hour run only for the benefit of TV Cameras…that is something that is happening here.
“Anand Sharma’s whole speech has to be expunged. Reference to a high constitutional authority is not allowed in the house. What is the purpose of dragging…we know the spirit of what you are saying,” Mr Jaitley said, accusing the opposition members of raising issues for the TV cameras.
He accused the Congress of trying to deflect attention from the Bofors scandal, knowing that it would be raised by the BJP today.
“None of us were born yesterday to not know each others’ game,” he said.
Mr Jaitley’s comment on TV cameras provoked sharp protests from the opposition.
“Such sweeping condemnation of the entire opposition is not right…they can’t say this is for TV cameras,” said Mr Sharma, while his Congress colleague Kapil Sibal accused the government of “arrogance”.