In the eye of a political storm over his “Rashtrapatni” remark for President Droupadi Murmu, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader in Lok Sabha, wrote to her Friday, apologising for having “mistakenly” used what he said was an “incorrect word” to describe the position she holds. He maintained it was a “slip of the tongue”.
Sources said Chowdhury had sought an audience with the President to express regret and provide an explanation in person. He waited all day but did not get an appointment, and he wrote to her thereafter.
In his letter to the President, Chowdhury said, “I am writing to express my regret for having mistakenly used an incorrect word to describe the position you hold. I assure you that it was a slip of the tongue. I apologize and request you to accept the same.”
His apology to the President is being seen as an attempt to blunt another attack from the BJP on Monday when the House is likely to discuss the issue of price rise.
Chowdhury also wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, urging him to expunge all references made by Union Minister Smriti Irani regarding Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Lok Sabha Thursday over his remark about the President.
“I am writing this letter to clarify the air in this unnecessary and unwanted parliamentary deadlock regarding President Droupadi Murmu. I have the highest regard for Rashtrapati Murmu. I regret to say that this controversy erupted because of a mere slip of tongue on my part. This error occurred because my mother tongue is Bengali and I am not well versed with Hindi. It is really very sad that Madam Rashtrapati Ji’s name is being unnecessarily dragged in order to gain cheap publicity and political one-upmanship by the ruling party,” he wrote to the Speaker.
He said the manner in which Irani took the name of the President in the House was neither proper nor in consonance with the status and position of the President.
“She was yelling ‘Droupadi Murmu’ repeatedly without prefixing Hon’ble President or Madam or Smt. before the Hon’ble President’s name. This clearly amounts to degrading the stature of the office of the Hon’ble President. Therefore, I demand that the way Smriti Irani was addressing the Hon’ble President may be expunged from the proceedings of the House,” Chowdhury said.
“I wish to further highlight that Gandhi had nothing to do with this unfortunate episode. Yet, Irani and the ruling party deliberately dragged her name in this controversy. Irani behaved very inappropriately with Gandhi… I appeal to you that since Gandhi had nothing to do with this controversy, the entire episode mentioning her name may also be expunged,” he said in the letter.
Congress MPs staged a protest in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Parliament, demanding an apology from the government over Irani’s confrontation with Sonia. Party MPs raised the issue in both Houses even as the treasury benches targeted the Congress over Chowdhury’s remarks.
In Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, sought to raise the issue of Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal making references to Sonia Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP, in the House Thursday.
In a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, Kharge urged him to expunge remarks made by Sitharaman and Goyal about Sonia. They had demanded an apology from Sonia over Chowdhury’s remark.
Referring to a time-honoured convention in Rajya Sabha wherein members are not allowed to reflect on or make critical remarks about the Lok Sabha or its members, Kharge asked the Chairman to direct Goyal and Sitharaman to tender an apology for violating the “sacrosanct convention”.
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Some Congress MPs, however, are unhappy with the controversy triggered by Chowdhury. Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Manish Tewari, in a Twitter post, said, “Lady or Gentleman, anyone occupying a constitutional office is equally Hon’ble. Respect has to be given and should be accorded to that institution. Any person in a particular position becomes analogous to or with that office. No point in getting lost in the maze of gender.”