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Mayawati beats Irani with her own words: 'will you chop off your head now?'

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:48 IST
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The dare

  • On 24 February, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani had spoken in Parliament on Rohith Vemula\'s suicide
  • In response to BSP leader Mayawati, she had said if her replies weren\'t satisfactory, she\'d chop her head off

The response

  • On 26 February, Mayawati produced facts and figures to show that Irani\'s replies hadn\'t been satisfactory
  • She then asked the minister if she would chop off her head now

Smriti Irani's speech in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 24 February, gained her immense popularity and political mileage. The emotionally charged speech was appreciated by the party, supporters and like-minded individuals. It was almost a public address from the floor of the house, not a reply by a minister of the government.

But what the Human Resources Development Minister in the Narendra Modi government lacked in her speeches in both houses of Parliament were clear categorical replies to question raised by Opposition leaders on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, BSP supremo Mayawati and her party MPs didn't allow the house to function. They were demanding a reply from the minister on whether the government was willing to add a Dalit individual to the judicial inquiry panel constituted to look into the Rohith Vemula suicide case at the Hyderabad Central University.

Mayawati said: "We are not stopping the discussion. We are demanding a discussion and a reply from the minister. Just give the reply in yes or no - are you going to add a Dalit individual to the inquiry panel or not?"

Irani replied: "Mayawatiji, I am ready to reply to you. I have been listening to your demands since this morning. And if you are dissatisfied with my reply, then I will chop off my head and lay it at your feet."

'Will you keep your promise?'

The fact of the matter is that while the argument went on and on, Irani avoided giving a direct reply to the question. In the second half of the day, she went to the Lok Sabha and made the aforementioned emotional speech on the issue of Rohith's suicide and the JNU issue.

The next day, Irani took the floor again in the Upper House. Once more, her speech touched a lot of bases while avoiding the core questions. It was full of personal attacks, especially on the Left, and references to other incidents which had no direct connection to the events in JNU and HCU.

Irani faced criticism from the Opposition, and ultimately, the House was adjourned till Friday, when the discussion resumed.

When Mayawati got another chance to speak, she pointed out that the minister hadn't given any replies to her questions. Other opposition leaders, too, made similar allegations.

Unlike Irani, Mayawati's speech was full of facts and figures. She raised many questions about the inquiry procedure, and gave some important suggestions in the Rohith Vemula case.

Irani had told Mayawati in Parliament on 24 Feb: "I will chop off my head and lay it at your feet"

By now, Irani was restless, and was trying to interrupt the senior Dalit leader. Mayawati responded to her by saying: "On 24 February, the minister said if I wasn't satisfied with the reply, she will chop off her head and lay it at my feet. I am reminding you of that - will you keep your promise now?"

Mayawati went on to remind the House that no jobs or compensation had been offered to Rohith's family. She even stated that the replies by the minister regarding medical developments related to the suicide had been false.

Irani tried one last time to deflect the issue, saying: "I request the BSP workers to come and behead me."

Just two days ago, Irani was the show-stealer. The Opposition had failed to counter her on the floor. But by Friday evening, the political pendulum had swung the other way. Mayawati had defeated the minister with her own words.

While both politicians jousted and won various rounds, the real loser was Parliament and India's public discourse.
To offer to cut off her head was an unseemly piece of theatrics in the first place. Mayawati did well to point out the lies in Irani's speech. But, in exposing her, she would've done even better to call Irani out on her unparliamentary hyperbole rather than stoop to the same idiom.
First published: 26 February 2016, 10:15 IST
 
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.

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