NEW DELHI: The Delhi Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which it was demanded that 'Bharat Ratna' awarded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi be withdrawn, but the AAP swiftly distanced itself from the reference to the Congress leader.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed the lines about the former prime minister were not part of the original text placed before the house and it was a handwritten amendment proposed by a member that cannot be passed in such a manner.
AAP MLA Jarnail Singh, while moving the resolution in the Assembly, had mentioned Rajiv Gandhi's name while reading the text and had demanded that the Bharat Ratna to the Congress leader be withdrawn for "justifying anti-Sikh riots".
But after Bhardwaj's remarks, Singh said it was only a technical shortcoming. He said though the reference to Gandhi in the resolution was not there in the written copies, it was made orally and passed by the House by voice vote.
The resolution called for speedy trial of the cases and termed anti-Sikh riots as genocide.
The Congress reacted sharply with its Delhi chief Ajay Maken saying Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed his life for the country and the true colours of AAP which is the "B team of BJP" has come out in the open.
"Sh. Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed his life for the country. True colours of AAP have come out in the open! I have always believed that AAP is the B team of BJP!
"AAP fielded candidates in Goa, Punjab, MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh just to cut the votes of Congress and help the BJP," the minister tweeted.
After the developments in the Assembly, Bharadwaj tweeted, "Lines about Late Rajiv Gandhi were not part of resolution placed before the house and distributed to the members. One MLA in his handwriting proposed an addition/amendment about Late Rajiv Gandhi. Amendments cannot be passed in this manner."
Talks are on for a possible tie-up between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress for Lok Sabha election and the controversy is likely to cast a shadow on the process.
However, the AAP appeared to be in a damage control mode. A senior AAP leader said that the party leadership was taken by surprise by the addition to the original text.
He said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was not made aware beforehand of the changes in the resolution.
After Bharadwaj tweeted, Jarnail Singh said, "At the last moment Somnath Bharti (MLA) gave me the third point about Rajiv Gandhi. The technical issue is that the third point was not there in the copies distributed to the members of the House. But everything happened on record despite the technical shortcoming."
As the controversy raged, Bharti said the reference to Rajiv Gandhi "was not part of the passed resolution" as the amendment was not put to vote separately. Also, the party had no opportunity to see the same, he tweeted.
During the proceedings in the House dominated by the AAP, Jarnail Singh read out the one-page resolution which also mentioned the demand to take back the award from Gandhi. After that Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Nivas Goel told the House that the riots were a "very serious issue" and all the MLAs should support the resolution by standing up.
Following this, all the AAP MLAs stood up. Goel then said the resolution is adopted by voice vote.
"The House passed my resolution seeking to take back the Bharat Ratna to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who commented on the massacre saying a big tree falls, the earth trembles," Jarnail had earlier told reporters outside the House.
The Delhi government should "strongly" convey in writing to the Union Home Ministry (MHA) that justice continues to elude the families and near-dear ones of the victims of the worst "genocide" in the history of India's national capital, the resolution said.
The House directed the government to impress upon the MHA that it should take all important and necessary steps to specifically include crimes against humanity and genocide in India's domestic criminal laws, as recommended by the Delhi High Court in its recent landmark judgment sentencing Sajjan Kumar and other convicts to life imprisonment.
During the discussion on the resolution, the ruling AAP MLAs slammed the Congress. Delhi Home Minister Satyendra Jain said that both the Congress and the BJP are responsible for riots in the country.
"Congress is responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots while the BJP was for the 2002 Gujarat riots," Jain alleged.
The matter comes against the backdrop of conviction of former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case.
A former Congress MP, Sajjan Kumar has quit the party following his conviction in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Rajiv Gandhi, who took over the reins of the party and the government following his mother's demise, was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, in 1991.
Participating in the debate over the issue, BJP MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa asked the AAP government to give a job to at least one member of the victim families within two months and ownership rights of their houses making them freehold or else he would resign from the House.
Sirsa alleged that the AAP had made many promises to the victim families but none was fulfilled.