With nowhere to hide after her ‘Ramzaadon-versus-haramzaadon’ remarks, the BJP on Tuesday forced Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti to apologise in both Houses of Parliament but a combined Opposition demanded her resignation and registration of a case over her highly offensive remarks at a BJP public meeting in Delhi.
While Lok Sabha later settled for the apology, Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned for the day with the Opposition refusing to relent, insisting on action against the minister. Proceedings in both Houses got off to a stormy start. In Lok Sabha, Opposition members ran into the well of the House, shouting “the minister should resign… the minister should apologise”. Congress MPs including Jyotiraditya Scindia, K C Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and TMC members Kalyan Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar were among the first to enter the well. They were joined by MPs of the Samajwadi Party, Left parties and Aam Aadmi Party.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too rose from his seat and joined the protest. MPs waved copies of The Indian Express which reported Jyoti’s remarks — at a BJP public meeting in Delhi on Monday, the minister asked voters to choose between ‘Ramzadon’ (those born of Ram) and ‘haramzadon’ (illegitimately born). Even members of the treasury benches were seen reading the newspaper.
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Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, whose adjournment notices on the issue were rejected by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, said the “objectionable” language used by Jyoti had created tension at a time when communal riots had taken place. While rejecting the adjournment notices, the Speaker said the matter was “important but does not warrant interruption of proceedings”. Mahajan said members could raise the matter during Zero Hour but this did not satisfy Opposition MPs who also demanded an apology from the Prime Minister.
Proceedings had to be adjourned for 15 minutes. When Lok Sabha met again, Jyoti said: “My intention was not to hurt anyone. If my speech outside the House has hurt anyone, I express my deep regrets and accept…” In Rajya Sabha, she said: “If certain words spoken by me outside the House have hurt someone, I take back my words and offer regret. However, if the House feels so, I am also ready to seek an apology.” But Opposition elders did not accept her regret and Rajya Sabha could not transact any business in view of repeated adjournments.
In Rajya Sabha, she said: “If certain words spoken by me outside the House have hurt someone, I take back my words and offer regret. However, if the House feels so, I am also ready to seek an apology.” But Opposition elders did not accept her regret and Rajya Sabha could not transact any business in view of repeated adjournments.
Congress members Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Anand Sharma and Ashwini Kumar, along with SP’s Ramgopal Yadav, BSP’s Mayawati, Left’s Sitaram Yechury and TMC’s Derek O’ Brien, raised the issue. They asked for the minister’s resignation, registration of a case and an apology from the Prime Minister.
\Anand Sharma said the minister had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, and if she had violated the Constitution by uttering such remarks, she should resign. Yechury said that an FIR should be filed and she should be sacked. He cited rulings of the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court to make the point that a mere apology would not do.
Yechury got support from TMC, Congress, SP, JD-U and Left parties. SP’s Ramgopal Yadav also asked for Jyoti’s resignation. JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav said she had confessed in the House, and a criminal case should be registered.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tried to calm the Opposition, pointing out that Jyoti had already apologised and the matter should be allowed to rest in line with tradition. But the Opposition refused to relent as Deputy Chairman P J Kurien expressed his inability saying the remarks were made outside the House.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also Leader of Rajya Sabha, said Jyoti’s remarks were “improper and unacceptable”. He, however, said the House cannot decide whether her action was criminal in nature. He said that should be left to agencies outside the House.
With no one paying heed to Kurien’s pleas for order in the House, proceedings were adjourned for 10 minutes — the fifth adjournment since morning. When similar scenes were witnessed after the House assembled again, proceedings were adjourned for the day.
Opposition parties made it clear that nothing short of the minister’s resignation would ensure that the House runs over the next few days.
Nine parties have come together to protest the remarks. “I do not see Rajya Sabha running this week. They are 60 and we are 150. The Prime Minister will need to come to the House… given the number of foreign tours he has done, he may need a visa to do so. And the minister will have to resign. At most Zero Hour and Question Hour can happen, but there cannot be any legislative business till the minister in question resigns,” TMC’s Derek O’ Brien said.
BJP sources claimed the Prime Minister had expressed disapproval over Jyoti’s remarks. At a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party, Narendra Modi asked party members to be cautious while making public comments.
Looking to counter the Opposition attack, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the matter was closed after Jyoti apologised. “Anybody who has elementary sense of parliamentary democracy in this country, past precedents and also conventions, the matter is closed… If somebody wants to take up the issue criminally, they are free to do so,” he said outside Parliament House.