A section of Congress members on Thursday staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha, protesting against the remark of senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu that left their colleague Prabha Thakur in tears. Almost all women members of the Congress were up in arms against the remark and the refusal of the Chair to direct him to apologise, stressing that the word was expunged.

Following an interjection from Congress members when he was speaking against foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, Mr. Naidu wondered from where the party had managed to get such members.

Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien immediately expunged the remark, but Congress members said it was directed against a specific woman member and demanded an apology from Mr. Naidu, who denied that he had called names. He clarified that he had only said that members should not talk rashly (he had said it in Hindi).

Mr. Kurien’s efforts to continue with the debate met with opposition from Congress members and he adjourned the house for 10 minutes.

On resumption, Mr. Kurien said he would look into the records and if Mr. Naidu had used the term he would take necessary action. The Treasury benches were unrelenting, particularly with Ms. Thakur emotionally affected and demanding justice.

BJP women members too sought to intervene, but Mr. Naidu said he had not targeted any specific member and that he had merely said one should not talk carelessly.

But women members, supported by some of their male colleagues, staged a walkout.

Mr. Naidu’s remarks questioning the BSP’s shifting political allegiance and describing it as an ally of the Congress evoked a sharp response from the latter which maintained that it was not an ally of the Congress.

The BJP found itself under fire from the RJD as well. Its leader Prem Chand Gupta questioned the BJP’s attempt to link the FDI issue to alleged misuse of the CBI to garner support in both Houses of Parliament.

He referred to how a CBI officer had even called the Army to arrest the former Chief Minister and RJD president, Lalu Prasad, in the fodder scam and how an attempt was made during the NDA regime to elevate the officer concerned.

He recalled that when he and the then Bihar Chief Minister, Rabri Devi, called on the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to protest against the action, the latter expressed surprise. He thanked Mr. Vajpayee for his intervention.

Mr. Gupta said the extent to which the BJP misused the CBI could also be gauged from the raid conducted on the residence of Ms. Devi when she was Chief Minister. “What did the raid yield?” BJP’s Deputy Leader in the House Ravi Shankar Prasad denied the charges.

Balchandra Mungerkar (Congress) said the BJP had no right to lecture when it had broken the secular fabric of the country, that too when Thursday happened to be the Babri Masjid demolition anniversary.

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