- BJP's Nishikant Dubey wrote to Speaker seeking Shashi Tharoor's removal
- Mr Tharoor's tenure has been controversial, wrote Mr Dubey in his letter
- Rajyavardhan Rathore also accused Mr Tharoor of "flouting rules"
The battle over the Facebook row heated up today with a call for removal of Shashi Tharoor as the chief of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology. While the BJP's Nishikant Dubey wrote to Speaker Om Birla, demanding that he be removed, Rajyavardhan Rathore also pitched in with a letter, accusing Mr Tharoor of "flouting rules".
"We are not against representative of any organisation being called, but he (Mr Tharoor) instead of discussing with us, discussed it with the media," Mr Rathore was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Demanding that Mr Tharoor be removed as the chairman of the Standing Committee, Nishikant Dubey wrote, "Mr Tharoor's tenure has been controversial... Speaking in Spenserian English in foreign accent does not give one freedom to an individual to disregard parliamentary institutions".
Nishikant Dubey has also listed past incidents where according to him Shashi Tharoor created controversies. He has accused Mr Tharoor of making remarks on social media on examination of Personal Data Protection Bill by the Joint Select Committee without discussing the matter with the committee members. The list also included the ban on 59 Chinese apps and 4G internet not being available in Jammu and Kashmir, where Mr Tharoor again criticised the government on social media.
Mr Dubey and Mr Tharoor have filed breach of privilege motions against each other over the issue. At the bottom of the feud is Mr Tharoor's tweet that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology that he heads, would like to hear from Facebook on the hate speech issue.
The Congress and the BJP have been battling over a report in The Wall Street Journal, which claimed that Facebook deliberately ignored incendiary content from members of the ruling BJP and the right-wing voices despite the issue being "flagged internally".
Mr Tharoor said the MPs' panel would consider a testimony under the topic "Safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms".
Mr Dubey, who is also a member of the panel, immediately retorted that the Chairman of the Standing Committee "does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members". Mr Tharoor, he said in his post, was just pushing the agenda of Congress's Rahul Gandhi – who was the first to tweet the WSJ report.
Mr Tharoor then moved a notice for breach of privelege, accusing Mr Dubey of making "disparaging remarks" on social media. Mr Dubey responded with a notice against Mr Tharoor and Rahul Gandhi, saying that while the former had "surpassed all limits of decency, ethics and basic tenets of parliamentary procedure", the latter had "spread fake news and hatred".
"If we go by the book, Tharoor cannot exercise powers without members' support. Although his explanation is 'this matter in public interest should be taken up by us," Mr Rathore said today.
Quoting former Secretary General of Lok Sabha PDT Acharaya, he added that under Rule 276, while the committee does not finalise the list of witnesses and it was the privilege of the chairman, the subject has to be under the consideration of the committee and the chair has to take committee into confidence.