Lok Sabha witnessed tensed scenes on Thursday after the House proceedings were adjourned briefly over the ruling party’s protests against a remark made by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. After the House adjourned, Congress president Sonia Gandhi walked up to the treasury benches side, amidst slogans seeking an apology from Chowdhury as well as herself.
Union Minister Smriti Irani had raised the issue in the House and sought an apology from Chowdhury for referring to President Droupadi Murmu as ‘Rashtrapatni’, which he said was done by mistake during a television interview. The House witnessed uproarious scenes, with BJP MPs accusing the Congress of being anti-adivasi and anti-women and demanding Chowdhury tender an apology. The House was adjourned within a few minutes after it met at 11 am.
When the House was adjourned, Gandhi turned to leave. At the same time, BJP women MPs were shouting “Sonia Gandhi maafi mango”. Hearing this, Gandhi went up to talk to Rama Devi, a senior BJP MP and one of the presiding officers for the Lok Sabha. Apparently, Gandhi asked why her name was being dragged into the controversy. She also wanted to convey that Chowdhury’s remark was a slip of tongue and that he had already apologised. But, seeing Gandhi walking to the treasury bench side, Irani intervened, said Congress leaders.
When Gandhi approached them, the BJP women MPs who were standing around Irani started shouting slogans “maafi mango”. Gandhi was seen saying something to Irani, who was then heard asking, “how can you talk to me like this and that she (Sonia Gandhi) is intimidating us,” Congress sources said.
The atmosphere became tensed when some more BJP MPs including Nishikant Dubey came to the front, and Congress MPs, including Gaurav Gogoi and Vishnu Prakash, went to shield Gandhi. An argument broke out. It was the intervention of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi that avoided a clash between the two sides.
Earlier, Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani led an offensive against the Congress inside and outside Parliament for a reference to President Droupadi Murmu as ‘Rashtrapatni’ by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
“You stand guilty of insulting the supreme commander of armed forces, you stand guilty of humiliating a tribal leader… The Congress party cannot stand the honour given to a tribal, it is not able to digest a poor tribal woman becoming the President of India,” Irani said in Lok Sabha even as MPs belonging to the BJP protested on the floor of the House.
In Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman said calling the President ‘Rashtrapatni’ was a “sexist insult” because “Rasthrapati is a gender agnostic word”.
Both the ministers demanded an apology from Chowdhury for his remark.
Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned minutes after it met due to protests from the ruling party MPs over the issue.
Earlier, the BJP MPs held a demonstration at Gate No. 4 against what they termed an “insult” to the President.
However, Chowdhury was defiant. “There is no question of apologising. I had mistakenly said ‘Rashtrapatni’…the ruling party in a deliberate design trying to make mountain out of a molehill,” Chowdhury told reporters.
In a video clip, Chowdhury was heard referring to the President as ‘Rashtrapatni’.