Seeking to end the controversy that erupted over his remarks and stalled parliamentary proceedings, union minister Anantkumar Hegde today tendered an apology in the Lok Sabha after a nudge by the Speaker but he said his speech at a function in Karnataka was distorted. As soon as the House assembled, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge sought to raise the issue of Hegde’s controversial remarks on secularism and changing the Constitution, but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan prevented him saying the Minister of State for Skill Development would make a statement. Hegde first said that he held the country, the Constitution and its architect B R Ambedkar in high esteem and there was no question of showing disrespect to them. “As a citizen, I can’t think of violating the Constitution,” he said.
After this, the Congress, led by Kharge, again protested demanding an apology from Hegde. The Speaker then intervened and told Hegde that there was no question of anyone showing disrespect to Ambedkar but, at times, if someone says something, his or her statement sometimes hurt someone else and for that if the person tenders apology, his stature would not get lowered. With Mahajan’s nudge, Hegde said his speech was presented in a distorted manner which was not correct. “If someone is hurt, I have no hesitation to tender my apology,” he said.
The proceedings of both House of Parliament were disrupted yesterday over Hegde’s remarks. At a function in Karnataka on Sunday, Hegde, the Minister of State for Skill Development, had reportedly said people should identify themselves by their religion and “those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don’t have their own identity…They don’t know about their parentage.” He had also said “we are here to change the Constitution and we’ll change it.” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh were present in the House.