Oppn warns ministers against misleading House

The opposition led by Congress on Wednesday threatened to escalate the confrontation with the Centre by exploring the possibility of moving a privilege motion against two Union ministers on charges of misleading Parliament over school circulars for holding events on Christmas Day.

The TMC has already moved a privilege motion against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha for making an “incorrect” statement on the issue. Continuing its attack on the NDA following news reports that the government wants schools to have essay writing competition and other events to mark December 25 as “good governance day”, the Opposition charged that the Centre was imposing the saffron agenda on Christians who celebrate Christmas on December 25, which is also the birthday of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Congress and TMC staged a walkout on the issue in the Lok Sabha, accusing the government of misleading Parliament. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s statement that the schools have not been forced to remain open that day and the essay writing competition was merely online did not satisfy the agitating Congress MPs. The members wondered how students can carry out such exercises without being present in the school.

Contradicting the government’s claim that no directive was issued, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia told reporters that the ministry had issued three circulars to CBSE and Navodaya schools and universities.

He warned that if the ministers were found to be “misleading”, his party would use “all options”, including a privilege motion, against them. “The government has several times said in Parliament and outside that no circular was issued. Today, we have received three circulars. First circular was issued to the CBSE schools by the HRD ministry on December 9 to celebrate Good Governance Day. There is no reference of an online debate in this circular as told by the government. The schools were asked to conduct debates and other competitions on this day and submit a report,” Scindia pointed out to reporters outside parliament.

“Another circular was sent to Navodaya schools on December 10 and was asked to carry out same activities. Then a third circular was issued to all universities, including the IIMs and IITs on December 12 to celebrate this day,” the MP from Madhya Pradesh said.

Though Naidu had clarified the sequence of events in the Lok Sabha, the opposition was still not convinced. A senior minister said the opposition was trying to defame the NDA government through such tactics.

The Congress wants Naidu and Smriti Irani to come clean on whether such circulars were issued by the HRD ministry. “If it is found that the ministers have said a wrong thing or misled the House, then there should be action against it.”

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