Rahul Gandhi At Protest Frontline, BJP Sings Bhajan At Same Location

Opposition MPs wearing black bands protest outside Parliament against minister Niranjan Jyoti for making hate speech. (Press Trust of India photo)

New Delhi: A statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament today formed the backdrop for protests first by the Opposition and later the ruling BJP amid a row in both houses over a hate speech by union minister Niranjan Jyoti.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi this morning joined opposition members who covered their mouths with black cloth and held up placards demanding the minister's sacking.

"We are not allowed to speak inside the House. It is the mindset of the top leaders of the country that democratic conversation should not be allowed," Mr Gandhi said.

He and other MPs kept the black bands on inside the Lok Sabha, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged parties to accept the minister's apology and get on with work. "When one of our colleagues asks for forgiveness, we should show generosity," PM Modi said.

The house was adjourned within minutes as the Opposition insisted that an apology was not enough and chanted slogans demanding the minister's removal.

Then it was the turn of BJP members to protest at the Gandhi statue, using, not a black cloth but a song - "Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram", a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi.

The BJP MPs said they were protesting against the opposition for not allowing Parliament to function.

"Congress leaders are clearly still depressed about their defeat, and that's why these antics every day," said the BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a union minister.

The Congress, in a rare show of unity, has combined with other parties, both for this morning's demonstration and to stall Parliament; the government wants to clear important legislation, much of it related to economic reforms, in this month-long winter session of Parliament.

The government is trapped especially hard in the Upper House or Rajya Sabha where it is in a minority. As a potential compromise, the opposition has pitched that the Rajya Sabha adopt a unanimous resolution condemning Ms Jyoti's statement without naming her.

Ms Jyoti, who is 47, apologised to lawmakers on Tuesday for her Sunday speech in which she said, "The people of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (descendants of Ram) or haramzaadon (those who are illegitimately born)."
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