"Tolerated A Lot": Jagdeep Dhankhar, M Kharge Faceoff Over Rules

The Congress chief asked the Rajya Sabha chairman not to indulge in politics, drawing a sharp retort.

The exchange began after RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary spoke on the Bharat Ratna for his grandfather.

New Delhi:

The buzz around the Jayant Chaudhary-led RLD joining hands with the NDA and the consternation this has caused in the troubled INDIA alliance spilled over into Parliament on Saturday, sparking a sharp exchange between Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar.

When Mr Dhankhar appeared to accuse the Congress of "insulting" a Bharat Ratna recipient, Mr Kharge lost his cool and asked the Vice President to not indulge in politics. The Vice-President then retorted, "Because I come from the farmer community, does not mean I am a weak Chairman. I have tolerated a lot."

The exchange began after Jayant Chaudhary, whose party is a member of the INDIA alliance, rose in the Rajya Sabha and started thanking the BJP-led NDA government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for announcing that the Bharat Ratna would be conferred posthumously on his grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh. Congress leaders objected to the speech and Mr Dhankhar then asked Mr Kharge to either "control your people or rise and address the House".

Prefacing his remarks with the assertion that he and the Congress were happy that former Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao and Chaudhary Charan Singh, and the father of the Green Revolution, Dr MS Swaminathan, were being awarded the Bharat Ratna - and that he "saluted" all three personalities - Mr Kharge wondered how Mr Chaudhary was allowed to speak on the issue. 

'Use Discretion Judiciously'

 "Whenever we want to discuss something, you always ask us what rule we should be allowed to do so under. I want to pose the same question to you: under which rule was he (Mr Chaudhary) permitted to speak? If this is the way it is, you should always give us permission as well. On the one hand, you talk about rules, and on the other, you allow whoever you want (to speak)," Mr Kharge said in Hindi.

The Congress chief, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, added, "You have discretion, but you should use that discretion very judiciously, not as and when you want." 

The Rajya Sabha Chairman then interrupted Mr Kharge and said, "The way your people... When the discussion was going on over giving Chaudhary Charan Singh the Bharat Ratna... I don't want to use words."

Incensed, Mr Kharge thundered, "Don't make politics (sic). I said we salute all the people who have worked for this country. Irrespective of political parties. Irrespective of caste and creed. We salute them. But the way the discussion is going on, neither are you following the rules nor have you brought that agenda for discussion. We all could have participated."

"But that was not done. That is not fair. That is not good. If you want to follow, you should follow the rule," he said.

'You Have Pained My Heart'

After an uproar, Mr Dhankhar retorted, "Because I come from the farmer community, does not mean I am a weak Chairman. I have tolerated a lot. You say anything you like about me, you don't follow precedent... You use any language against me. Sometimes you behave like a teacher, as if I am a student."

"This moment is a sensitive one. You have pained my heart," he said.

The Rajya Sabha chairman said he has honoured requests from many members to honour ISRO scientists and others who have brought laurels to the nation "without looking at any rule".

"Now the leader of the opposition is questioning me under which rule I want that someone should appreciate Bharat Ratna to Chaudhary Charan Singh. The rule is in me (sic)," he said.

When Mr Kharge interrupted, Mr Dhankhar said, "Don't use this language, sir. I will not tolerate an insult to Chaudhary Charan Singh... He stands for impeccable public life, unflinching commitment to farmers."