Her Ramzaadon-versus-haramzaadon remark last week stalled Parliament, left her party red-faced and forced the Prime Minister to make statements in both Houses. On Tuesday, Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti watched with a wry smile as the BJP hit back in Lok Sabha, demanding an apology and threatening a censure motion against a TMC MP who sat glumly in his seat.
The BJP target was Kalyan Banerjee who had borrowed Jyoti’s colourful language — if not her remarks — to run down Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson Sidharth Nath Singh, the BJP in-charge of West Bengal, at meetings in the state.
Rising in the latter half of Zero Hour, S S Ahluwalia, BJP MP from Darjeeling, said a TMC member — he did not name Banerjee — had made vulgar remarks about Shastri and Modi. He said the MP was present in the House and should apologise for what he had said about Shastri, a prime minister who is still fondly remembered, especially for his Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan slogan.
Seizing the chance to attack bitter rival TMC, Mohammad Salim of the CPM backed Ahluwalia and recalled that Tapas Pal of the TMC too had made objectionable remarks earlier. Salim’s party colleague P K Sreemathi Teacher said no member should use such language inside or outside the House.
By then cries of “shame, shame” could be heard from the treasury benches. Aware the din was about him, Banerjee sank deeper in his seat. From her aisle seat across the well, Jyoti watched quietly, not joining the BJP chorus.
As Speaker Sumitra Mahajan tried to calm members, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu named Banerjee and said he should express regret on his own. He quoted Banerjee as saying that in 2019, people would slap Modi so hard that he would end up in a Gandhinagar lane from where he would never return.
According to Naidu, Banerjee also said Lal Bahadur Shastri would have never married had he known he would have such a grandson – the reference was to Sidharth Nath Singh. Infuriated, BJP MPs stood up and demanded that Banerjee apologise immediately. Naidu also reminded the TMC MP that Bengalis have great respect for culture and tradition. He said if the MP were to express regret, the House could carry on with its business.
But Banerjee did not relent. Speaker Mahajan intervened, saying real apology comes from within. Underlining that decency and decorum should be maintained inside and outside the House, she said, “You cannot order someone to express regret.”
Banerjee’s party colleague Saugata Roy came to his rescue and said the minister should not have named the member without giving notice. At this, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, said if Banerjee were to remain adamant and not apologise, a censure motion would be brought against him.
With the BJP chorus now a din, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch.