Under fire for her remarks praising Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse that forced her party to remove her from the consultative committee on defence, BJP Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur had to apologise twice in Lok Sabha Friday after an angry Opposition rejected her first apology.
Her first apology, in which she also attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for calling her a “terrorist”, was rejected as “conditional” by the Opposition, forcing speaker Om Birla to call a meeting of floor leaders of parties to resolve the issue and resume normalcy in the House.
In her second apology, Thakur said: “On November 27, during discussion on SPG (Amendment) Bill, I did not call Nathuram Godse a patriot (deshbhakt), I did not even take his name. Still if someone is hurt, I express my regret and apologise.”
The Opposition, which had taken to slogan-shouting to demand that she express her regret in an unqualified manner, let the matter rest because the final draft had been agreed upon at the meeting of the floor leaders.
In her first apology, without taking Godse’s name, Thakur said: “If my comments have hurt in anyway, I regret and seek apology. But my comments in the House have been misrepresented and twisted.” She said she respects and pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi for his contribution to the country. “One member has publicly termed me as a terrorist, though I have not been convicted by the court… it is an insult to a woman and a sadhvi,” she said.
It is learnt that Thakur submitted a breach of privilege notice against Rahul Gandhi for calling her a “terrorist”. Official sources said the Lok Sabha secretariat will examine the complaint before forwarding it to the Speaker.
Coming to her defence, BJP member Nishikant Dubey demanded admission of a privilege motion against Rahul Gandhi. He also cited an editorial in an old edition of the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna which, he said, had hailed Godse as a patriot. “This shows the double-standards of the Congress,” he said, referring to the coalition government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress in Maharashtra.
Rahul Gandhi, who was in the House for a while, told the media outside that he stood by his remarks about Thakur on Twitter and was prepared to face any action. “Yes, I stand by my statement. What I have written on Twitter, I stand by it.”
On the BJP demand for action against him, Gandhi said: “That’s okay. There’s no problem. Whatever they want to do, I will welcome.” He said Thakur says what she believes in. “I don’t agree with her, but she believes in it.” Godse, he said, also used violence and she also believes in violence — Thakur is an accused in the Malegaon blast case.
The matter was first raised by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress as soon as the House assembled. He said Thakur’s “cheap” remarks had hurt the dignity of the Chair and as custodian of the House, the Speaker should take action. The Speaker told him that he would be allowed to speak after Question Hour.
During Zero Hour, the Opposition interrupted Thakur while she was making a statement. Congress members trooped into the well of the House and started raising slogans.
Chowdhury said Thakur’s remarks had not only hurt India, but the entire world because Mahatma Gandhi was not just the Father of the Nation but a global icon.
SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested that the Speaker call a meeting of floor leaders of all parties to sort out the matter. Birla asked the House to also consider if it could take cognisance of the utterance of something which had not been recorded in the proceedings.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of Trinamool Congress said the action taken by the BJP — from the statement of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to the removal of Thakur from the Defence Ministry consultative committee — showed that the party had distanced itself from what she had said. The only thing, he said, was that her apology had to be unconditional.