A day after Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's mother accused Smriti Irani of lying in Parliament, the Congress has upped the ante against the aggressive HRD minister.
Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik said on Saturday that the party will move a privilege motion against Irani for "misleading the House".
The Opposition is planning a big offensive against the minister and this motion is likely to get the support of many parties. Besides the Congress, Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi and nominated MP KTS Tulsi are also likely to file privilege motions against the minister in the Rajya Sabha. CPI(M) MP Mohammad Salim is reportedly going to do the same in the Lok Sabha.
The Opposition's strategy is send the message that the BJP is anti-Dalit and anti-minority and its idea of nationalism is against India's plural ethos. They also want to slam the BJP for "attacking universities" and "stifling dissent".
"If she had said something factually incorrect in the question hour when you are just talking off the cuff, then you cannot hold her responsible. But she knew of the tragedy beforehand and was aware that it will be brought up in Parliament. Misleading the House is a grave offence," Rajeev Gowda, Congress MP told Catch.
The BJP camp believed that Irani had silenced the Opposition through her fiery speech. Now it appears to have backfired.
Wasnik began by quoting Vemula's mother where she had said, "I want to meet Smriti Irani and ask her 'On what basis did you declare my son to be anti-national? Your ministry had written that my Rohith and other Dalit students were anti-national extremists. You said that he is not a Dalit. You accused him of getting a false certificate. Should I say it is because you got false certificates for your educational qualifications that you think others do so too?'"
"These strong words from a mother who has lost her son to the BJP and in particular the HRD Minister's campus politics, shows how recklessly and ruthlessly their party is hell bent on clamping down the voices of dissent," Wasnik said.
Wasnik, himself a Dalit, said that what Irani's speech was reflective of how the BJP is waging a war against Dalits and the poor.
Meanwhile, Gowda says that the minister may have been deliberately bringing up factually incorrect information to the floor of the house. "Not only were the facts incorrect, but if you look at the larger histrionics, there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the house and pass the buck," he said. He also pointed out how Irani "went on to brand the Hyderabad Central University students anti-national and quoted wrong facts about the police and the doctor who examined Vemula, whose version was totally different from that of the minister".
The sentiment was echoed earlier by Wasnik. He said, "The HRD minister has not only been economical with the truth but has also willfully misled the Parliament on the unfortunate suicide of a young Dalit student, Rohit Vemula."
On Friday, CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury had asked the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha to come up with a ruling on what he termed as a dangerous practice of producing documents in Parliament without proper authentication. He was referring to Irani who had spoken about a Facebook post purportedly taken from Vemula's account.
Politicians from across the Opposition have expressed support for the privilege motion. "We will support it," DP Tripathi of the NCP told Catch. CPI MP D Raja said that there was a high possibility that the Left will support the motion."We will consult and then take a final call," he told Catch.
Edited by Aditya Menon
Also read: Did Smriti Irani mislead the Parliament?