West Bengal Minister of State for Correctional Home Administration, Akhil Giri on Saturday, November 12, 2022, came under severe criticism for making a controversial remark on President Droupadi Murmu.
In a video clip that has gone viral on social media, the Minister and Trinamool Congress MLA from Ramnagar is heard commenting on the looks of the President Droupadi Murmu. The remark was made at a public meeting at Nandigram on Friday evening. “They (BJP) said that I am not good-looking. We don’t judge anyone by their appearance. We respect the office of the President (of India). But how does our President look?” the Minister is heard saying.
On Saturday, Mr. Giri apologised for the remarks. “If someone thinks I have disrespected the President, then it is wrong. I apologise for making such a remark. I have immense respect for the President of our country,” the Minister said. Mr. Giri said that his remarks were in response to what BJP leaders including Suvendu Adhikari were saying while verbally attacking him.
Mr. Giri has made similar remarks against the President in the past. A video of the Trinamool leader making similar comments on the last week of October also surfaced later in the day.
However, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda also demanded that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tender a public apology for Mr. Giri's comments and also clarify that at whose behest he made such "unfortunate" and "indecent" remarks.
Addressing a press conference, BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said if a Minister who has taken a pledge to preserve the ethos of the Constitution makes such a derogatory remark, then he must be sacked. "Mamata Banerjee should lead by example and expel such a leader from her party (TMC)," Mr. Bhatia said.
Mamata, TMC anti-Tribal: BJP
The remarks by Mr. Giri have created outrage in the political and social circles. A police complaint was lodged by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters at Nandigram Police station. BJP supporters hit the streets in Kolkata demanding action against the Minister. A protest rally was brought out from State BJP headquarters in Central Avenue. Reacting to the remarks, the State unit of BJP alleged that “Mamata Banerjee and TMC are anti-tribal.
“President Droupadi Murmu, hails from the Tribal community. Akhil Giri, TMC Minister of Correctional Homes made objectionable comments about her in the presence of Shashi Panja, another Minister from the women’s welfare department Mamata Banerjee and TMC are anti-tribal,” BJP West Bengal tweeted from its official handle.
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari approached State’s Governor La Ganesan seeking an appointment so that they BJP Legislature party can make demand of removing Mr. Giri from State’s Council of Ministers. BJP MP from Bishnupur Saumitra Khan wrote to national Commission for Women seeing arrest of Mr. Giri over the remarks.
Trinamool condemns Minister’s remarks
Reacting to the development, Trinamool Congress condemned the remarks of Mr. Giri directed at President Murmu. “We have the utmost respect for Hon’ble President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu.Our party strongly condemns the unfortunate remarks made by MLA @AkhilGiriAITC and clarifies that we do not condone such statements. In the era of women’s empowerment, such misogyny is unacceptable,” the party said in an official statement.
Earlier, State BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said that not only does the party condemn such statements but demands that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should act against the Minister. “If the Chief Minister does not act against the Minister, people will understand that this government is anti-tribal,” Mr .Bhattacharya said.
The Trinamool Congress has not issued any official statement so far on the issue. The party had supported Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha in the elections to the office of President. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, had said that if she was informed about Ms. Murmu being the choice of BJP well in advance, she would have considered fielding and supporting Opposition candidates.
He said Mr. Giri's comments against Mr. Murmu, a woman as well as a scheduled tribe holding the highest Constitutional post of the country, has hurt the feelings of every Indian.Through his "indecent" comments, Giri has polluted and lowered the standards of politics in the country, Mr. Bhatia said.
West Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar said Giri's remark reflected the "anti-tribal" mindset of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
"President Droupadi Murmu hails from the tribal community. Akhil Giri made objectionable comments against the country's President. These comments reflect the anti-tribal mindset of the TMC party," Mr. Majumdar said.
Amit Malviya, in-charge of BJP's National Information and Technology Department, co-in-charge West Bengal said in a tweet, "Akhil Giri, minister in Mamata Banerjee's cabinet, insults the President...Mamata Banerjee has always been anti-Tribals, didn't support President Murmu for the office and now this. Shameful level of discourse."
( With PTI inputs)