Jai Bhim, Jai Palestine, Jai Hindu Rashtra: MPs wear ideologies on sleeve during oath taking

BJP MP from Bareilly Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar chose to end his oath with the Hindu majoritarian slogan ‘Jai Hindu Rashtra’.
From left: Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Rahul Gandhi, and Asaduddin Owaisi
Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Rahul Gandhi, and Asaduddin Owaisi
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The Parliament of India witnessed some dramatic events on the second day of the oath-taking ceremony, with several Members of the Parliament (MPs) making political statements and ideological assertions following their oaths, some more controversial than others. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Bareilly, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, chose to end his oath with the Hindu majoritarian slogan ‘Jai Hindu Rashtra’. After 262 newly elected MPs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi took their oaths on Monday, June 24, during the inaugural session of the 18th Lok Sabha, the remaining MPs did so on June 25.

Chhatrapal Singh’s statement, which was emphatically opposed by members of the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc, was apparently in response to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s ‘Jai Palestine’ slogan at the Parliament. Owaisi’s decision to hail the war-torn region in West Asia after his oath had received severe criticism from the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and BJP leaders have been calling for Owaisi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha for “demonstrating adherence to a foreign State.” 

Radha Mohan Singh, who was presiding over the swearing-in ceremony when the row broke out, told the House that the slogan would be expunged from the official record.

Owaisi later defended his decision to hail Palestine during the ceremony, pointing out that “other members were also saying different things” while taking their oaths. “I said ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Telangana, Jai Palestine.’ How is it wrong? Tell me the provision of the Constitution. You should also listen to what others say. I said what I had to,” he told reporters.

Indeed, the slogans raised by various BJP MPs included divisive majoritarian slogans and even the hailing of communal figures such as KB Hedgewar, who founded the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP MP from Ghaziabad Atul Garg, who said “Narendra Modi Zindabad” and was met with opposition from INDIA bloc MPs, had returned to the podium to add “Dr Hedgewar Zindabad.” BJP MP from Meerut, Arun Govil, raised the slogan “Jai Shri Ram” before ending his oath. 

INDIA bloc says ‘hail Constitution’

Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi took oath in Lok Sabha flaunting a red booklet of the Constitution in his hand, stating “Jai Hind, Jai Samvidhan” after his oath, while Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav did so with a blue one.

Several other Opposition MPs, including Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram)’s Chandrashekhar Azad, held on to the Constitution as they took their oath. Chandrashekhar, who was elected from Uttar Pradesh’s Nagina, followed up his oath with a long list of slogans. “Jai Bhim, Jai Bharat, Jai Samvidhan, Jai Mandal, Jai Johar, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,” he said.

Several Samajwadi Party MPs also chanted “Samajwad Zindabad” and “PDA Zindabad”. PDA is an acronym coined by the SP and stands for “pichhde” (backward classes), Dalit and “alpsankhyak” (minorities). 

Pappu Yadav, an independent MP from Purnea in Bihar, made a statement by wearing a shirt with “RE-NEET” written on it while taking his oath. The shirt is in reference to the widespread demands to hold retests for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) undergraduate exams, which has been mired in controversies and scam allegations.

Outer Manipur MP Alfred Kan-Ngam Arthur, who took his oath in English, sought justice for his conflict-torn state in Hindi after his oath, stating, “Manipur mei nyay dilaye, desh bachaiye” (Bring justice to Manipur, save the country). Opposition MPs welcomed Arthur and inner Manipur MP Angomcha Bimol Akoijam with chants of “Manipur, Manipur” as they walked to the podium to take their oaths.

Sasikant Senthil, Congress MP from Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu, called for a stop to “the shameful atrocities against minorities, Dalits and Adivasis.”

Meanwhile, a number of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MPs hailed Udhayanidhi Stalin, the son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. Senior DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran ended his oath by stating, “Long live Tamil, Long live Kalaignar, Long live Periyar, Long live Anna, Long live Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, Long live Udhayanidhi Stalin. Ban NEET.”

Several DMK MPs including G Selvam, TM Selvaganapathy, Malaiyarasan, Tharaniventhan, and CN Annadurai invoked Udayanidhi’s name, with senior leaders Ganapathy Rajkumar and Kathir Anand referring to the CM’s son as Tamil Nadu’s “future.”

Religious chants

Besides his invocation of Palestine, Owaisi had also come under the criticism of the Hindu right-wing for stating the Islamic greeting ‘Allahu Akbar’ while taking his oath. However, many BJP MPs had also invoked the name of Hindu gods and prayers during their oath-taking. This included actor-politician Suresh Gopi, the sole BJP leader elected from Kerala, who began his oath on June 24 by calling out “Krishna, Guruvayoorappa.” 

Similarly, BJP leader Ravi Kishan, another actor turned politician, also wrapped up his oath by invoking a yogi, chanting a Hindu religious mantra, and hailing the Bhojpuri language. “Baba Gorakhnath Maharaj ki jai, Har Har Mahadev,” he said and was soon joined by other MPs in the House who repeated the Mahadev chant. 

Hema Malini, another actor-politician of BJP elected from Mathura, began her oath with the greeting “Radhe Radhe,” associated with the Hindu goddess Radha.

Tamil Nadu MP takes oath in Telugu

In what has come to be acknowledged as a nod towards India’s linguistic diversity, it is common to see MPs representing different states take their oaths in their native languages. But Congress MP K Gopinath surprised many when he took his oath in Telugu, despite being elected from the Krishnagiri constituency of Tamil Nadu. Gopinath has long been an advocate for the preservation of the Telugu language within Tamil Nadu. Formerly, as a Congress MLA, he had also challenged then Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s move to make learning Tamil compulsory in the state’s schools.

Many MPs – including Congress leaders from Kerala Shafi Parambil, KC Venugopal, NK Premachandran, and Adoor Prakash – chose to take their oaths in English. Curiously, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden spoke in Hindi. It is speculated that Hibi chose the language to appeal to a broader audience rather than make a political statement.

Shripad Yesso Naik, elected from the North Goa constituency, took his oath in Sanskrit. So did Bansuri Swaraj, first-time MP and the daughter of former Union minister Sushma Swaraj. Others who took oath in Sanskrit include BJP MPs Devusinh Chauhan, Hemang Joshi, Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, and Congress’ MP Satpal Brahamchari.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP MP from Saran in Bihar, expressed his disappointment that he could not take his oath in his native tongue of Bhojpuri as it is not listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. “Everyone is taking oath in their own languages, and it feels so good ... It would have been even better if we could have taken oath in Bhojpuri,” Rajiv Pratap said to the Chair before proceeding to take his oath in Hindi.

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