The BJP on Thursday put Sonia Gandhi and her party leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, in the pillory for "demeaning" President Droupadi Murmu, who was referred to by Chowdhury as "Rashtrapatni".
That was the government’s cue to create pandemonium in Parliament with ministers Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha and Nirmala Sitharaman in the Rajya Sabha spearheading the BJP attack against Chowdhury and Gandhi.
There was a chorus on the BJP benches in both the Houses with members clamouring for an apology from Gandhi. Finally, the incessant chant of "maafi maango" and counter attacks from the Congress side constrained Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to adjourn the two Houses till 12 noon and then till 4 PM.
Adhir clarified that it was a slip of tongue and offered to apologise to Murmu; he insisted there was no question of insulting her.
In the Lok Sabha, a livid Irani targeted Sonia Gandhi for sanctioning the humiliation of "a woman in the highest constitutional post." She dubbed Gandhi as "anti-Adivasi, anti-Dalit, and anti-woman".
The BJP leaders claimed this was also an insult of the Adivasis.
Sitharaman insisted in the Rajya Sabha that Chowdhury should be censured for a "deliberate sexist remark.’’ She and Union Minister Piyush Goyal, who is also the leader of House in the Rajya Sabha, asserted that Chowdhury has revealed the anti-tribal attitude of the Congress. Chowdhury, however, hit back saying that the government and the BJP is making "mountain of a mole hill."
He accused the BJP of distracting from crucial discussions on price rise, GST, the Agnipath scheme, unemployment, and other issues. Stressing that there was no chance of an apology to the BJP, he said he would personally meet Ms Murmu and apologise to the President "a hundred times," if she says she was hurt by his remark. He ascribed his "slip of the tongue" to the language barrier, claiming he is a Bengali and not proficient in Hindi as it's not his mother tongue.
Congress chief spokesman Jairam Ramesh chipped in on Twitter describing Irani's show in the Lok Sabha as "atrocious and outrageous behaviour" and asked: ‘‘Will she be pulled up by the Speaker or rules are only meant for the Opposition?"
DON’T TALK TO MNE
After the Lok Sabha was adjourned, Sonia Gandhi crossed the floor of the House and reportedly said to BJP MP Rama Devi: "Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had already apologised. What is my fault?" At this point, sources told the TV channel Smriti Irani interjected and said, "Madam, may I help you? I took your name." To which, Sonia Gandhi retorted: "Don't talk to me." According to the Congress sources, Irani pointed her finger at Gandhi and had said: "How dare you behave like this? This is not your party office..." And to that Gandhi replied: "I am not speaking to you." Rama Devi, however, claimed Gandhi spoke to Irani angrily, wagging her finger.
Rama Devi reiterated her party's demand for Gandhi's apology. "Who can tolerate the humiliation of the President? She is a backward and a tribal leader. Her work speaks volumes and not party affiliation. Gandhi should apologise to country for choosing a leader like that, who speaks such nonsense," Rama Devi said.
It is understood that the BJP women MPs in the Lok Sabha have filed a complaint with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla against Gandhi for shouting at Irani.
NCP MP Supriya Sule said: "Unfortunate scenes were witnessed in the Lok Sabha. Was shocked to hear unnecessary sloganeering against Sonia Gandhi after the House was adjourned. We all should take responsibility of the House and maintain its dignity and decorum.
Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Moitra tweeted: "Was in the Lok Sabha when a 75-year-old senior leader was encircled and heckled pack-wolf style when all she did was walk over and speak to another senior lady and panel chairperson. I am disgusted at BJP lies & the false version in press."