As the opposition and treasury benches debated the issue, the house was adjourned four times after Salim attributed remarks to Rajnath Singh on the basis of an article in a magazine. The minister categorically denied making the remarks.
Salim, who initiated the discussion, attacked the government and said objectionable remarks had been made by some ministers.
The standoff was resolved after the fourth adjournment only after Salim’s comments, contested strongly by the ruling National Democratic Alliance, were expunged from the house proceedings.
The minister said he was deeply hurt by the claim.
“I have never been so much hurt in my parliamentary life. If a home minister makes such comments, he has no right to be in his post,” he said, adding that MPs and even minorities know he can’t make such remarks.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy asked Salim to withdraw the comments till their authenticity was ascertained.
Rudy said it would be difficult for members on the treasury benches to sit in the house after allegations “which are dangerous for the country”.
Biju Janata Dal’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said a member has to give prior notice before levelling allegations against another member.
Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, however, said there was no denial from the minister after the magazine carried the purported comment.
Salim later said his intention was not to hurt the minister. Rudy pressed the Marxist MP to withdraw his words.
As the impasse continued, the speaker adjourned the house for an hour. When it reassembled, Rudy again asked the Communist Party of India-Marxist member to withdraw his remarks.
Salim refused. “This is also intolerance. This is ridiculous,” he said.
As the standoff persisted, Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai briefly adjourned the house.
When the house reassembled after its second adjournment, Congress member M. Veerappa Moily said since both Salim and Rajnath Singh had spoken, the matter should be put to rest.
But the stalemate persisted and the house was adjourned till 3.15 pm.
When the house met at 3.15 pm, Salim said he would have been happy if Rajnath Singh had become the prime minister instead of Modi.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu objected to this comment, and said such comments can also be made about CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Taking part in the debate, Congress member K.C. Venugopal said there was an “unprecedented attack on people’s right to eat and right to think”.
Referring to writers and intellectuals returning their awards, he said “eminent personalities from various fields are talking about intolerance but the prime minister is keeping silent”.
He referred to the Dadri lynching incident and said some ministers had made objectionable remarks.
Venugopal demanded removal of Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh for his reference to stoning a dog while commenting on the burning of two Dalit children in a Haryana village by upper caste villagers.
BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi, meanwhile, lambasted the Congress and also targeted the people resorting to return their awards to highlight the ‘intolerance’ in the country under the Narendra Modi government.
She accused Congress governments in the past of banning some books “to protect the image of dynasty”.
Earlier, Rajnath Singh asserted that the government did not believe or agree that there was growing intolerance in the country.
But he said the government would seek suggestions from MPs who say so.
“We would like to have suggestions on how to stop it, from members who think intolerance is growing,” he said.
Interestingly, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, before the discussion could start, urged members not to show their intolerance in the house and listen to the views of other members with patience.
Mahajan said MPs provide leadership to people and hoped the discussion will go in the right direction.