Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday obliquely disapproved of the controversial remarks made by Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Niranjan Jyoti at a public meeting and asked party members to refrain from making comments that were “unacceptable.”
Addressing the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, Mr. Modi asked members to be careful about their “achaar aur vichaar” (demeanour). Without naming anyone, he advised MPs to be cautious about their utterances in the media as well. Later, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu conveyed to the Minister to express regret in Parliament, which she did.
He, however, added that while members in the Lok Sabha had taken a call and accepted Ms. Jyoti’s “regret”, Rajya Sabha members had not. “There cannot be two versions of the same issue. We request members to consider the matter settled.”
To the Chair’s observation in the Rajya Sabha that there was no evidence to warrant issuing a direction to the government, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said her apology and withdrawal of statement was an admission of guilt. Later, briefing mediapersons, the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) refused to repeat what she said, to drive home the point that it was “unmentionable.” Questioning the otherwise “voluble’’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence, Congress spokesman and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Singhvi said, “To simply walk into Parliament and withdraw a statement does not erase culpability.”
Both parties said she should be booked under Section 153 (a) of the Indian Penal Code. Mr. Singhvi wondered why such efforts to create communal tension happened with “monotonous regularity” before every election.
“Whenever there is an assault on the idea of India, Mr. Modi is silent. What message is he sending with his silence — that the police can lie low and look the other way,” he said.