Union Minister Giriraj Singh waded into yet another controversy today after claiming that children from "well-off families", who study at missionary schools, go abroad and eat beef because "we have not inculcated 'sanskaar' (tradition) in them". A BJP MP from Bihar's Begusarai, Giriraj Singh also demanded the Bhagavad Gita be taught at all private schools because similar rules issued for government-run schools "run the risk of inviting accusations of imposing 'bhagwa' (saffron) agenda".
"I say this because it has been seen that at schools run by missionaries, children from well-off families excel academically, go on to have successful careers... but when they go abroad they eat beef. Why? This is because we have not inculcated 'sanskaar' (tradition) in them," Giriraj Singh said while addressing a religious function in his constituency.
"I would like to say to people present here... this practice (the teaching of Bhagavad Gita and Hanuman Chalisa) should start from private schools since, at government-run ones, we run the risk of inviting accusations of imposing 'bhagwa' (saffron) agenda," he added.
In yet more shocking remarks Giriraj Singh appeared to further hit out at minorities in the country, claiming "we feed ants with sugar and serpents with milk... serpents end up intimidating us".
Later he also spoke to reporters on the citizenship law that has provoked furious nationwide protests over claims it discriminates against Muslims and violates secular tenets of the Constitution.
He equated the protests, in which dozens of people have died - some in police firing - and lakhs of people have taken to the streets, with Pakistan-sponsored attacks meant to weaken the country. His comment came only days after he accused the Congress of wanting to "divide the country" by spreading lies and confusion.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, is the first time religion has been used as a marker of citizenship. The government says the law makes it easy for non-Muslim refugees fleeing religious persecution from one of three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries to become Indian citizens.
The law has witnessed massive protests with political leaders and civil society members attacking the centre over it. The Chief Ministers of several non-BJP states, including Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Mamata Banerjee's Bengal and Left-ruled Kerala, have all voiced opposition.
Giriraj Singh accused the Congress of being driven by vote-bank politics and dared the party to publicly state it supported granting citizenship to illegal immigrants such as Rohingya Muslims who fled persecution in Myanmar.
The question of why the CAA does not include Muslims and religious groups from Sri Lanka, who also face religious persecution, was raised by Congress leader P Chidambaram in parliament last year.
Giriraj Singh is no stranger to controversial and eyebrow-raising remarks.
In July last year he declared the answer to population control was that couples with more than two children should be stripped of voting rights, telling news agency PTI that "certain communities" disapproved of birth control measures.
He also had a case registered against him during Lok Sabha elections in April-May; he had criticised Muslim's burial practices at a rally in Begusarai.
With input from PTI, IANS, ANI