It has been two days since the first Parliament session for the 17th Lok Sabha began, and the 353 NDA MPs who have been elected are already trying to make their presence felt.
This time, many of the newly elected MPs took oath to background chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
ANI reported that as the protem speaker Virendra Kumar took his chair at 11 am on Tuesday, he was greeted with chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’.
Slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ were heard after each and every BJP MP took oath on Monday, not only from those looking on, but also from those who took oath. BJP’s Hema Malini ended her oath with ‘Radhe Radhe’. Attempts were made by Kumar to stop the MPs, but the sloganeering continued in an apparent attempt to provoke opposition MPs.
In videos doing the rounds of social media, Owaisi was seen asking the BJP MPs to chant even louder as he walked over to the well of the house. BJP MPs tried to drown Owaisi out with their chants as he read out his oath in Urdu. The three-time MP had a perfect response and ended his oath with ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem, Takbir! Allahu Akbar! Jai Hind!’ in reply to the sloganeering.
Owaisi’s party AIMIM had come up with the ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’ slogan to unite Muslims and Dalits.
SP’s Barq also took his oath in Urdu and said ‘Constitution Zindabad’. He said, “I won’t say Vande Mataram as it is against Islam.”
Members of the treasury benches protested and demanded an apology from him. The retorts from Owaisi and Barq, in the face of provocation, made for great viral videos, but raised questions about what is to come in the next five years in Parliament, which has only 27 Muslim MPs (up from 22 in 2014).
While Parliament sessions have frequently seen scuffles and name-calling, the attempts to deliberately provoke MPs from minority communities indicates a worrying turn. As the BJP-led government begins its second term with an even larger majority than in 2014, it is likely that the party’s MPs will repeat such acts with impunity in the absence of a strong Opposition.
The BJP led an extremely divisive campaign in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Ram Mandir issue was brought to the forefront by party bigwigs like Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. With divisive figures like Pragya Thakur and Giriraj Singh, who led openly communal campaigns, becoming part of the elected majority, it is unlikely that the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogans will die down soon. Thakur, in fact, had ended her oath by saying ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
The chanting of slogans in the first two days comes despite Modi saying the opposition was important for parliamentary democracy. On Monday he had said, “The opposition need not bother about their numbers. I hope they speak actively and participate in House proceedings.”