New Delhi: BSP MPs led by Mayawati in Rajya Sabha today demanded resignation of Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya in connection with the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad Central University.
Stating that the issue was a matter of grave concern, the BSP members raised slogans that the "anti-Dalit, anti-Ambedkar" government will not be allowed to run.
The BSP chief even dubbed the incident an "insult to 25 crore Dalits" in the country. "HRD Minister is responsible for Rohit Vemula death," she said.
Irked over Mayawati's remark, Irani said the opposition was using a "dead child" (Rohith) as "a political tool and strategy" and asked the opposition to start discussion on the issue "right now".
"First listen to my answer. Behead me if you are not satisfied with my answer," she said, adding that "Are we signalling to the nation that a Judge's capacity to deliver justice will depend on his caste?".
A visibly upset Chairman Hamid Ansari, who went the extra mile to hold an all-party meeting days before start of the session to ensure smooth functioning, asked Mayawati to follow procedures, arguing that her party members can raise the issue any other time during the day.
"Disruption of House is the violation of the privilege of individual members of the House. Do not trample the privilege your colleagues," he said.
Members from treasury benches welcomed Ansari's remarks. He also held an informal meeting with leaders of parties in his chamber after the House was adjourned for the third time.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said if Question Hour was not being allowed, the legislative business should be taken up as otherwise it will not send a right message. He said a response can be given only if a thorough debate is allowed in which everybody gets a chance to participate. However, his pleas remained unheeded.
A number of Union Ministers like Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman, Prakash Javadekar, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi among others were present in the House. Rajnath Singh later left the House amid the din.
The row in the Upper House began virtually from the start. Even though a discussion on the issue was listed for today, Mayawati (BSP) wanted a response from the government to her demand for resignation of the Union Ministers allegedly linked to the suicide.
"Since the time, BJP came to power at the Centre, nefarious means are being used to impose RSS ideology," she said, adding that prestigious institutions like Hyderabad University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were being interfered with.
Suicide by Rohith is not the first case and many Dalit students have committed suicide in the past including when Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre, she claimed.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said if the House agreed, a debate on the issue could be taken up immediately. Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien too agreed that a discussion can be taken up immediately if the House agrees.
But Mayawati insisted on a response to her demands first, even as Naqvi said, "We are not running away from debate."
Kurien said the subject raised by Mayawati was already in the list of business and could be taken up now and the government will reply to it. But BSP members remained unrelenting.
After the brief adjournment when the House reassembled, Mayawati again wanted to know from the government if there would be a Dalit member in the inquiry committee. To this, Deputy Chairman Kurien said "don't take the House to ransom".
As BSP members trooped in to the Well, Naqvi said a discussion would take place on the issue and the government cannot reply to questions in bits and pieces.