There was great commotion in both houses of Parliament on Thursday and Friday. The BJP and opposition MPs kept attacking and counter-attacking each other. The reason was an obscene remark made by Congress Parliamentary Party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury about President Draupadi Murmu. In a television interview, Choudhary had used the word ‘national wife’.
BJP MPs led by Union Minister Smriti Irani strongly protested this statement. He called it a “sexist” statement deliberately made against the president by the Congress leader. At the same time, Chaudhary clarified that the word came out of his mouth “by mistake” and he never intended to insult the President. However, he said he would only apologize to President Murmu personally.
In the Lok Sabha on Thursday, Union Minister Smriti Irani lashed out at Congress President Sonia Gandhi and asked President Murmu to apologize for “malicious targeting”. Irani termed the Congress as “anti-women, anti-tribal and anti-Dalit”. Almost all the BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha stood up and raised slogans of “Sonia Gandhi mafi maango”. Smriti Irani said: ‘The Congress could not tolerate Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a poor tribal woman the President. Sonia ji allowed the humiliation of a woman holding the highest constitutional post.
A new twist in the matter came when there was a debate between Sonia Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani after Parliament’s proceedings were suspended. The Congress president got up from his seat and reached BJP MP Rama Devi and asked her, ‘What is my mistake? Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has already apologized. In the middle of the conversation between the two, Smriti Irani also reached out and asked Sonia, ‘Madam, can I help you? I took your name.’ To this Sonia Gandhi replied sternly saying, ‘You are not talking to me.’
According to NCP MP Supriya Sule, she went to Sonia Gandhi and told her that ‘all these things will not yield any result’. Supriya Sule said, ‘Sonia ji and I left and I sat her down to her car.’ During a heated argument between Smriti Irani and Sonia Gandhi, Supriya Sule and several women MPs from the Trinamool Congress went to Sonia Gandhi and took her away. Many women MPs from BJP had also reached there by that time. While BJP MPs alleged that Sonia had threatened Smriti Irani, Congress leaders alleged that BJP MPs misbehaved with Sonia and insulted her.
The Congress, which wreaked havoc in Parliament during the monsoon session for the past 10 days, took a back seat on Thursday while the BJP was seen as the aggressor. BJP leaders said Chowdhury had insulted the President’s post and demanded an unconditional apology from him for his “national wife” remark. Chowdhary did not apologise, but he said that ‘if a word accidentally comes out of your mouth, will you hang yourself?’ Since Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, his remark cannot be ignored as a “dirt”. When Adhir Ranjan was not ready to apologize for the Qabil-e-Aitraaz remark about the President, BJP workers started demonstrations across the country against him and burnt effigies of a tribal woman to insult the President.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was adamant on his insistence and refused to apologize in Parliament, so the case escalated. “It shows the mindset of the Congress towards women and tribes,” he said. BJP Chief Ministers Shivraj Chouhan, Pushkar Singh Dhami, Manohar Lal Khattar, Pramod Sawant, Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis termed Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s remarks as an insult to women power.
Chowdhary told reporters: ‘Why should I apologize at the behest of the BJP? They are Hippocrates (hypocrites).’ On the other hand, when reporters asked Sonia Gandhi about this, she said, ‘Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has already apologised’. On the Smriti-Sonia fight, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, ‘Sonia Gandhi had spoken of misbehaviour. She threatened our members. He now had to politely apologize to the country. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has sent a notice to Choudhary seeking a reply by August 3. NCW has also sent message to Sonia Gandhi.
In the afternoon, Congress MPs met the Lok Sabha Speaker and demanded to provide CCTV footage of the altercation between Sonia Gandhi and Smriti Irani. He said the matter should be referred to Parliament’s Privileges Committee and the MPs who raised slogans should be suspended. Interestingly, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, whose statement led to all this ruckus, created controversy, also went to the Speaker to complain about the BJP MPs. After meeting the speaker, Adhir Ranjan wrote him a letter appealing to Sonia Gandhi to intervene in the misbehaviour. Adhir Ranjan later said that he would meet the President and apologize to him, but at the behest of the BJP, he has not apologized and will not apologize.
I think if Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had apologised, it wouldn’t have become such a big issue. Draupadi Murmu is the president of the country, the commander in chief of our three armies. She is a tribe, a woman and respectable in every respect. If Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had made a mistake, he would have said I apologize with folded hands, I will also apologize in Parliament and I will also apologize to the President. By doing this Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will not become small but his own value will also increase and the President’s respect will also increase.
Unfortunately, his party president Sonia Gandhi was embroiled in a frivolous controversy. The way he told the reporter that ‘Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has apologised’ showed a touch of arrogance. Had she politely replied that the kind of words Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury used about Draupadi Murmu were not right and apologized to her, the matter might have ended there. But the persistence of Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi sent the wrong message. BJP got an opportunity to say that Congress does not respect tribals and women. The kind of rhetoric uttered by other Congress leaders in this matter also tarnished the image of the party. (Rajat Sharma)
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