Azad compares demonetisation deaths to Uri, government seeks apology

New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday triggered a furore among the treasury bench in the Rajya Sabha when he compared the deaths of soldiers in the Uri terror attack with that of people standing in queues outside banks and ATMs post demonetisation. The government has sought an unconditional apology, but the Congress has backed the Leader of Opposition.

Azad, in his remarks in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on demonetisation, said: “Demonetisation is causing immense problems to people, and 40 persons have died. Not half of this number died from Pakistani terrorism in Uri, and double the figure has died due to the wrong policies of the government.”

Azad’s statement was greeted by loud protests from the ruling benches, to which the Congress leader in exasperation, said, “So you want to compare (the numbers) after 2,000 people die? The 40 poor people who died, labourers, farmers, died due to the wrong policy of the government. Who is to be punished for this?” he asked.

The government has also sought a clarification from the Congress party and its leadership on whether it stands with Azad or condemns his “anti-national” remarks.

The Congress said that Azad is correct in what he said and he will not apologise.

“I was really shocked and surprised by the remarks of Azad. This is not only unfortunate but an insult to the nation and also our martyrs,” Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters here.

He said that what is most unfortunate is that Azad has refused to budge from his stand.

“We want to know the stand of the Congress as Azad has refused to budge even an inch from his remarks, which is hurting the sentiments of the people,” Naidu said.

“He is a responsible leader, he has done a blunder and should now apologise,” he added.

He said the government is also concerned about the problems being faced by the common man post demonetisation and the government is taking all measures to lessen it.

The Congress backed its senior leader.

“Why should he apologize? He is correct. Our own people have died more due to the government’s policy. The damage inflicted by the Pakistanis on our own people in Uri is less then the damage inflicted by Modi through his policy,” said Congress spokesperson Ajay Kumar.

“People are dying of hunger and heart attacks (in queues); Isn’t this the most insensitive move by the government? They only speak for the suited-booted and a few industrialists,” the Congress leader said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar sought an unconditional apology from Azad, saying he has gone “beyond the Laxman Rekha”.

Talking to reporters, Kumar said that he never expected such a remark from a seasoned politician like Azad.

“He should unconditionally apologize to the nation and also to the Parliament,” Kumar said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dubbed Azad’s remarks as irresponsible and said that Congress as a national party must support instead of obstructing Parliament.