India

Sonia Gandhi, Smriti Irani face off in LS

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani were involved in a dramatic face-off in Lok Sabha on Thursday over Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s reference to President Droupadi Murmu as “Rashtrapatni”.

The sharp exchange took place in between House adjournments and will not be part of Parliament’s official records.

Mr. Chowdhury’s choice of words to refer to President Murmu to a TV channel triggered a war of words between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the principal Opposition party, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi demanding an apology from Ms. Gandhi.

The Congress, in turn, approached the Lok Sabha Speaker to refer their complaint -- against those BJP members who allegedly ‘surrounded’ the Congress chief -- to the Privileges Committee.

What transpired before adjournment

As soon as the House had assembled at 11 a.m., Ms. Smriti got up and demanded an apology from Mr. Chowdhury as well as Ms. Gandhi for insulting the President.

“You sanctioned the humiliation of Droupadi Murmu, you sanctioned the humilitaion of the tribal legacy of this country,” Ms. Irani said in the Lok Sabha, pointing towards Ms. Gandhi.

Soon the ruling party members started shouting Sonia Gandhi maafi mango [Sonia Gandhi apologize].

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla adjourned the House after the Minister had made her point in the floor of the House.

Competing versions

As the House adjourned after 12 noon, Ms. Gandhi had walked over to the Treasury benches and asked senior BJP member Rama Devi why her name was being dragged into the controversy.

Ms. Irani then intervened and a sharp exchange followed. There are, however, competing versions on what was said by the two leaders.

BJP sources said when Ms. Gandhi was asking Ms. Devi why her [Sonia Gandhi]’s name was being taken, Ms. Irani intervened and pointed out, “I am one the who took your name? Why are you asking her?”

Thereupon Ms. Gandhi was quoted by BJP sources as saying, “Don’t you dare talk to me,” to which Ms. Irani reportedly responded by saying, “Don’t misbehave with me or try to intimidate me”.

With other BJP MPs joining in and flocking around Ms. Gandhi and Ms. Devi, Nationalist Congress Party’s Supriya Sule and Trinamool’s Aparupa Poddar escorted the Congress chief away from the Treasury Benches.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman reported the incident thus: “She [Ms Gandhi] said, ’you don’t talk to me’. As if putting a member of parliament down in the House. So instead of remorse, we find from the highest leader of the Congress party greater and greater aggression.”

Meanwhile, Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh, put out a statement to contradict BJP’s claims. Stating Ms. Irani spoke to the Congress chief in an ‘insulting’ tone after ‘accosting’ her, Mr. Ramesh said, “When Sonia Gandhi politely told her that she is not talking to her [Ms. Irani] but to another MP, then Smriti Irani yelled and said, ‘you don’t know me, who I am’. Many other MPs are witness to it”.

“Heckled pack-wolf style”

Trinamool Mahua Moitra tweeted to say the 75-year-old lady leader (referring to Ms. Gandhi) was “encircled and heckled pack-wolf style”.

Meanwhile Bahujan Samaj Party member Danish Ali tweeted, questioning why Ms. Irani referred to the President only by her name, “I strongly demand an unconditional apology from @smritiirani ji for disrespecting Hon’ble President of India @rashtrapatibhvn while calling her name on the floor of the House, in an inappropriate and objectionable manner”.

Meanwhile, Mr. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said about his reference to the President as “Rashtrapatni”: “I am a Bengali and admit that don’t know Hindi. I made a mistake and I will meet Rashtrapati ji and seek her forgiveness. I have sought time from her but I am not ready to apologise to do these [BJP] pakhandis charlatans.”


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2022 9:16:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sonia-gandhi-smriti-irani-face-off-in-ls/article65694673.ece