The slogan row in the Maharashtra Assembly took a new turn on Saturday with the Congress claiming that it did not support the motion for suspension of AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan for not chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. The party also alleged that the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena legislators were using the issue to deflect attention from key issues.
In a virtual U-turn, Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil of the Congress said the motion, adopted early this week, was moved without hearing the Opposition out.
“The resolution was moved by the Treasury benches and it was passed without hearing the Opposition out. Congress has never supported the resolution at any given point of time. Our stand from the beginning is that one should be allowed to speak whatever he wants to. But if it is insulting to the nation, the person should apologise,” Mr Vikhe-Patil said.
“The BJP and the Shiv Sena wanted to milk the issue for political benefits and deflect public attention from issues such as drought and farmer suicides. Congress will never support this kind of politics,” Vikhe-Patil said.
“Initially, when the House was adjourned, I was not present there and sitting in my office. I later made a statement that whatever happened is unfortunate and if the statement made by the member is correct, he should apologise.”
Vikhe-Patil said following the commotion in the House, the Speaker convened a meeting of group leaders of all parties. At the meeting, the BJP and Sena legislators were adamant on suspending Pathan for an year.
The Congress MLA said when he told the Speaker that the records of the proceedings had to be checked before taking any action, the BJP and Sena members mellowed down. Pathan, an MLA from Byculla, was later suspended for the entire Budget session.
A senior Congress leader said the change in the party’s stand on the suspension came after the central leadership’s intervention. “The Central leadership is upset that Vikhe-Patil chose to support the motion calling for suspension of Waris Pathan. A party general secretary had called him and asked him explain the situation. The central leadership strongly feels we should have kept quiet over the issue,” said the Congress leader, requesting anonymity.