There was heavy uproar in both the houses of Parliament on Thursday and Friday. BJP and opposition MPs kept attacking and counterattacking each other. The reason was an indecent remark made by Congress Parliamentary Party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury about President Draupadi Murmu. In a TV interview, Choudhary had used the word ‘national wife’.
BJP MPs led by Union Minister Smriti Irani strongly objected to this statement. He called it a “sexist” statement deliberately made against the President by the Congress leader. At the same time, Chaudhary clarified that the word came out of his mouth ‘by mistake’ and he never intended to insult the President. However, he said, he would only apologize to President Murmu in person.
In the Lok Sabha on Thursday, Union Minister Smriti Irani hit out at Congress President Sonia Gandhi and asked President Murmu to apologize for “maliciously targeting”. Irani termed the Congress as “anti-women, anti-tribal and anti-Dalit”. Almost all the BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha stood up raising slogans of ‘Sonia Gandhi mafi maango’. Smriti Irani said, ‘Congress could not tolerate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a poor tribal woman the President. Sonia ji allowed the humiliation of a woman holding the highest constitutional post.
A new twist in the matter came when there was a debate between Sonia Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani after the House proceedings were halted. The Congress President got up from her seat and reached BJP MP Rama Devi and asked her, ‘What is my mistake? Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has already apologized. Amidst the conversation between the two, Smriti Irani also reached there and asked Sonia, ‘Madam, can I help you? I took your name.’ To this, Sonia Gandhi replied sternly, ‘You don’t talk to me.’
According to NCP MP Supriya Sule, she went to Sonia Gandhi and told her that ‘all these things will not yield any result’. Supriya Sule said, ‘Sonia ji and I left from there and I dropped her till her car.’ During a heated argument between Smriti Irani and Sonia Gandhi, Supriya Sule and several women MPs of Trinamool Congress went to Sonia Gandhi and took her away. Many women MPs of BJP had also reached there by then. While BJP MPs alleged that Sonia had threatened Smriti Irani, Congress leaders alleged that BJP MPs misbehaved with Sonia and insulted her.
The Congress, which was creating a ruckus in Parliament during the Monsoon session for the last 10 days, came on the back foot on Thursday, while the BJP was seen as the attacker. BJP leaders said Chowdhury had insulted the President’s post and demanded an unconditional apology from him for his ‘national wife’ remark. Chowdhary did not apologize, but he said that ‘if a word accidentally comes out of your mouth, will you hang yourself?’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury being the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, his remark cannot be ignored as a ‘slip of tongue’. When Adhir Ranjan was not ready to apologize for the Qabil-e-Aitraaz remark on the President, BJP workers started demonstrations across the country against him, and burnt effigies of a tribal woman to insult the President.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was adamant on his insistence and refused to apologize in the House, so the matter escalated. “It shows the mindset of Congress towards women and tribals,” he said. BJP Chief Ministers Shivraj Chouhan, Pushkar Singh Dhami, Manohar Lal Khattar, Pramod Sawant, Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis termed Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s remarks as an insult to women power.
Chowdhary told reporters, ‘Why should I apologize at the behest of BJP? They are Hippocrates (hypocrites).’ On the other hand, when reporters asked Sonia Gandhi about this, she said, ‘Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has already apologized’. On the tussle between Smriti-Sonia, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, ‘Sonia Gandhi had talked to misbehavior. She was threatening our members. He should now politely apologize to the country. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has sent a notice to Choudhary seeking a reply by August 3. NCW has also sent notice to Sonia Gandhi.
In the afternoon, Congress MPs met the Lok Sabha speaker and demanded to provide CCTV footage of the altercation between Sonia Gandhi and Smriti Irani. He said that the matter should be referred to the Privilege Committee of Parliament, and the MPs who raised slogans should be suspended. The interesting thing is that Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, whose statement led to all this uproar, created controversy, also went to the Speaker to complain about the BJP MPs. After meeting the speaker, Adhir Ranjan wrote a letter to him in which he appealed to Sonia Gandhi to intervene in the matter of misbehavior. Adhir Ranjan later said that he would meet the President and apologize to him, but at the behest of the BJP, he has neither apologized nor will apologise.
I think if Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had apologised, it would not have become such a big issue. Draupadi Murmu is the President of the country, the Supreme Commander of our three armies. She is a tribal, a woman and respectable in every respect. If Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had made a mistake, he would have said that I apologize with folded hands, I will apologize in Parliament as well and I will also apologize to the President. By doing this, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury does not become small, but his own prestige also increases and the respect of the President also increases.
Unfortunately, his party president Sonia Gandhi got caught up in a frivolous controversy. The manner in which he told the reporter that ‘Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has apologised’, showed a bit of arrogance. Had she politely replied that the kind of words Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury used about Draupadi Murmu were not right, asking her to apologise, perhaps the matter would have ended there. But the persistence of Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi sent the wrong message. BJP got an opportunity to say that Congress does not respect tribals and women. The kind of rhetoric made by other Congress leaders in this matter also spoiled the image of the party. (Rajat Sharma)
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