The Congress and the BJP engaged in an exchange over Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury’s laughter during PM Narendra Modi’s reply to the President’s address in Rajya Sabha, and the PM’s remark directed at Chowdhury.
Union minister Kiren Rijiju, meanwhile, tweeted a video clip form the serial Ramayan, which Modi had referenced during his speech. Chowdhury said she will move a breach-of-privilege notice against Rijiju.
At one point during Modi’s speech Wednesday, Chowdhury had burst into loud laughter. Modi then urged the Rajya Sabha chairman not to stop Chowdhury, saying: “Ramayan serial ke baad aisi hasi sunne ka ab saubhagya mila hain.”
On Thursday, Rijiju posted a clip of the character Shurpanakha from the 1980s serial. It was later deleted.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad met chairman Venkaiah Naidu and drew his attention to the video. Naidu, sources said, brought the issue to the notice of the MoS for Parliamentary Affairs.
“This is highly objectionable and I am going to file a privilege motion,” Chowdhury told reporters. Rijiju, on the other hand, said he was only “referring to how the prime minister didn’t get annoyed”. “Despite such vexatious laugh by Renuka Chaudhary, the PM didn’t get irritated,” he said.
Sources said women MPs of the Congress too met Naidu and conveyed they were unhappy at the way he had rebuked her after she burst into laughter. While warning he would have to name her, Naidu had told her, “What happened to you, Renukaji? …If you have some problem, go to a doctor, please….”
The Congress disrupted Rajya Sabha proceedings Thursday demanding an apology for the Prime Minister’s remarks. Its women’s wing too demanded an apology from the Prime Minister. Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev said: “I express my shock at the utterly sexist and downright distasteful comment against a Member of Parliament, made by none less than the Prime Minister of India. I personally feel that this attitude and comment in the Upper House of Parliament directed at Renuka Chowdhury, belittles the office of the PM and amounts to an insult to each and every woman in the country,” she said.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said the PM “did cross one line of political discourse which is respected by all, not once but many a time by his use of language and his outrageous reference which registered with the members later… What was alluded to is shameful. We condemn it. He should apologise.”
He said Rijiju’s post was objectionable. “And the Prime Minister is silent on that, which is again not only obnoxious, outrageous but condemnable.”
For the BJP, Union minister Smriti Irani hit back at Chowdhury. “It is wrong to use your gender as a shield to hide your ill-mannered behaviour. Ask any woman, she would not accept it,” Irani told reporters.
BJP’s Bhupender Yadav told reporters that Chowdhury’s laughter “disrespected” parliamentary traditions. He said the conduct of some Congress members in Parliament violates parliamentary traditions, and that the response of the Congress is wrong.