The Delhi assembly on Friday adopted a resolution on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which it was demanded that Bharat Ratna awarded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi be withdrawn, but the Aam Aadmi Party swiftly distanced itself from the reference to the Congress leader.
The matter became a major crisis with AAP MLA Alka Lamba saying she will tender her resignation over revoking the late PM’s award. She also staged a walkout.
Lamba claimed after the walkout, “I got a message from the CM to tender my resignation. I’m ready to do so”.
‘I was asked to support the resolution demanding taking back the Bharat Ratna awarded to former PM Rajiv Gandhi. Since I didn’t agree to this, I staged a walkout. I am ready to accept whatever punishment given to me,’ she said in a tweet.
There was no immediate response from AAP on Lamba’s claim.
Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed the lines about the former prime minister were not part of the original text placed before the house and it was a handwritten amendment proposed by a member that cannot be passed in such a manner.
AAP MLA Jarnail Singh, while moving the resolution in the Assembly, had mentioned Gandhi’s name while reading the text and demanded the Bharat Ratna to the Congress leader be withdrawn for ‘justifying anti-Sikh riots’.
But after Bhardwaj’s remarks, Singh said it was only a technical shortcoming. He said though the reference to Gandhi in the resolution was not there in the written copies, it was made orally and passed by the House by voice vote.
The resolution called for speedy trial of cases and termed anti-Sikh riots as genocide.
Congress reacted sharply with its Delhi chief Ajay Maken saying Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed his life for the country and the true colours of AAP which is the ‘B team of BJP’ has come out.
‘Sh. Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed his life for the country.True colours of AAP have come out in the open! I have always believed that AAP is the B team of BJP!
‘AAP fielded candidates in Goa, Punjab,MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh just to cut the votes of Congress and help the BJP,’ the minister tweeted.
After the developments in the Assembly, Bharadwaj tweeted, ‘Lines about Late Rajiv Gandhi were not part of resolution placed before house and distributed to the members. One MLA in his handwriting proposed an addition/amendment about Late Rajiv Gandhi. Amendments cannot be passed in this manner.’
Talks are on for a possible tie up between the AAP and the Congress for the Lok Sabha poll and the controversy is likely to cast a shadow on the process.
However, the AAP appeared to be in a damage control mode. An AAP leader said the party leadership was taken by surprise by the addition to the original text.
He said Kejriwal was not made aware beforehand of the changes in the resolution.
After Bharadwaj tweeted, Jarnail Singh said, “At the last moment Somnath Bharti (MLA) gave me the third point about Rajiv Gandhi.
“The technical issue is that the third point was not there in the copies distributed to the members of the House. But everything happened on record despite the technical shortcoming.”
As the controversy raged, Bharti said the reference to Gandhi ‘was not part of the passed resolution’ as the amendment was not put to vote separately. The party had no opportunity to see the same, he tweeted.
During proceedings, dominated by AAP, Jarnail Singh read out the one-page resolution which also mentioned the demand to take back the award from Gandhi.
After that Speaker Ram Nivas Goel told the House that the riots were a ‘very serious issue’ and all MLAs should support the resolution by standing up.
Following this, all AAP MLAs stood up. Goel then said the resolution is adopted by voice vote.
“The House passed my resolution seeking to take back Bharat Ratna to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who commented on the massacre saying a big tree falls, the earth trembles,” Jarnail told reporters outside the House.
The Delhi government should “strongly” convey in writing to the Home Ministry that justice continues to elude families and near-dear ones of victims of the worst ‘genocide’ in the history of India’s capital, the resolution said.
The House directed the government to impress upon the MHA that it should take all important and necessary steps to specifically include crimes against humanity and genocide in domestic criminal laws, as recommended by the Delhi high court in its recent landmark judgment sentencing Sajjan Kumar and other convicts to life imprisonment.
During discussion on the resolution, the AAP MLAs slammed Congress. Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain said both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are responsible for riots in the country.
“Congress is responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots while the BJP was for the 2002 Gujarat riots,” Jain alleged.
The matter comes against the backdrop of former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar’s conviction in a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case.
Kumar quit the party following his conviction in a case related to the riots that followed former PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Rajiv Gandhi, who took over reins of Congress and government following his mother’s demise, was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1991.
Participating in the debate over the issue, BJP MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa asked the AAP government to give job to at least one member of the victim families within two months and ownership rights of their houses making them free hold or else he would resign from the House.