Both Houses of Parliament saw frequent disruptions over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “Rape in India” comment during an election rally in Jharkhand, with members of the ruling BJP calling on the Wayanad MP to apologise for his remarks.
Right after Lok Sabha assembled for the last day of the Winter Session, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said the ruling party members had given notice for an adjournment motion over Gandhi’s remarks. “This is condemnable activity. How could he say ‘rape in India’? He must apologise to the House here. Although he has made the remark outside the House, there is such a precedence in Parliament. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti had said something outside but she had apologised in the House,” Meghwal said.
The protests were led by BJP members who assembled together just near the Well to attack Gandhi, took up the scheduled business of Lok Sabha and forced Speaker Om Birla to adjourn the proceedings twice.
Union minister Smriti Irani said Gandhi had “insulted” the women and men of India, claiming the Congress leader’s remarks amounted to inviting people to rape women. Seeking his apology, Irani said he should be punished.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also attacked Gandhi and said such MPs don’t have moral right to be a member of the House. “He has hurt not only the House but the entire country,” Singh said.
Amidst the din, DMK’s Kanimozhi defended Gandhi, saying he was referring to cases of sexual assault and violence against women in the country.
Joshi termed the DMK leader’s response “unfortunate”, while Irani said her defence of Gandhi was “disgusting to to say the least”.
Outside the House, Gandhi said he would not apologise for his remark and asserted that the BJP is making his comment into an issue to deflect attention from the turmoil in the North-East over the new citizenship law. He also put out an old campaign video of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he is purportedly heard accusing the Congress of making a Delhi a “rape capital”.
“The main issue is how the BJP, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have left the North-East burning… Now to divert attention from that issue… Narendra Modi and the BJP are saying this about me,” Gandhi said after Parliament was adjourned.
Talking to reporters, Gandhi repeated what he had said in Jharkhand. “What I said was that Narendra Modi had been talking about ‘Make in India’… But when we open the newspapers today… we get to read only about rape in India. There is not a single state left where the BJP is in power where rapes are not reported on a daily basis.”
The Congress claimed Gandhi had approached Speaker Om Birla, seeking a chance to speak in the House after the BJP raised the issue. “It is sad that the Speaker allowed the Defence Minister to allege something on Rahul Gandhi but he was not given time to speak. Is it correct?” Congress MP Manickam Tagore said.
“Surprising duplicity of BJP – ask for Rahul Gandhi to be present but didn’t allow him to speak even though Congress put forward his request. Their attempt to deflect the discussions from the unrest in North-East India is blatant and cowardly,” Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said.
Hours later, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury shot off a letter to Birla saying the voice of the Opposition has been throttled by the ruling party in the House.
He wrote, “…It is regrettable to note that while the ruling party have been hurling allegations against our party leaders, we had not been able to defend ourselves because the Chair has not allowed us to speak… Sir, you are our custodian. That is why, I got prompted to express our grievances before you, so that we would not be ever deprived from articulating our voice inside the Parliament.”
Later in the day, a delegation of female MPs from the BJP approached the Election Commission seeking “strongest action possible” against Gandhi.
“The entire nation looks upon this constitutional authority (EC) to ensure that dignity of women is upheld and those politicians who seek to use rape as a political weapon are reprimanded with the severest punishment possible,” Irani said.
According to an EC spokesperson, the commission, after receiving BJP’s complaint, sought a certified copy of the transcript of Gandhi’s speech from the Chief Electoral Officer of Jharkhand.
Meanwhile, in Rajya Sabha, the treasury benches disrupted proceedings over Gandhi’s comment even as members, with the permission of the chair, attempted to speak about the situation in the North-East over the new citizenship law.
Several BJP MPs, mostly women, raised slogans following a point of order by nominated MP Sonal Mansingh about a “high functionary” of the Congress saying ‘Made in India’ has been replaced by rape in India.
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