A ‘Mahabharat’ played out in Rajya Sabha over Narendra Modi’s ‘Ramayan’ jibe at Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury, with the Congress forcing Rajya Sabha to adjourn and its women’s wing demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for his “utterly sexist and disgusting” remark.
A fiesty Chowdhury threatened to move a privilege motion against Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju for tweeting a video of Modi making the sarcastic comment against her.
Rijiju, however, said he just wanted to show how Modi kept his cool despite the “vexatious” laugh.
“This is highly objectionable and I am going to file a privilege motion (in Rajya Sabha),” Chowdhury told reporters minutes after Rijiju posted the prime minister’s video.
Responding to queries by journalists about Chowdhury’s threat, Rijiju said, “I am only referring to how the prime minister didn’t get annoyed. Despite such vexatious laugh by Renuka Chowdhury, the PM didn’t get irritated.”
Both the Congress and its women’s wing ‘Mahila Congress’ were livid and demanded apology from the prime minister.
Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev dubbed Modi’s comment as “utterly sexist” and “downright distasteful”.
“I express my shock at the utterly sexist and downright distasteful comment against an honourable Member of Parliament, made by none less than the honourable Prime Minister of India,” she said in a statement.
She demanded that Modi apologise to Chowdhury and the nation “for speaking in a manner which encourages disrespectful behaviour towards women”.
Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha Modi had claimed the concept of Aadhaar was mooted in 1998 by the then home minister L K Advani, who spoke about a universally used national identity card.
As Modi sought to shear the previous Congress government of the credit for Aadhaar, Chowdhury burst into a guffaw that resonated across the House chamber and drew the disapproval of Chairman Naidu.
“What happened to you? If you have some problem, go to a doctor, please,” an irritated Naidu told Chowdhury.
Smiling broadly, Modi requested Naidu not to restrain the Congress MP.
“Ramayana serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai. (After Ramayana serial, we’ve now had the privilege of listening to this kind of laughter),” he said.
Though the prime minister did not name the character, national tv channels showed ‘Surpanakha’, the sister of ‘Ravan’, the antagonist in epic Ramayana, laughing hysterically.
Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma termed Modi’s remark as “condemnable”.
The prime minister, he said, “crossed the line of political discourse” with the use of his language and his “outrageous” reference.
“A women parliamentarian laughing at his language of claims what was alluded to is shameful. We condemn it. He should apologise,” he told reporters.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani took on Chowdhury over her “badtameezi” (ill-mannered behaviour).
“It is wrong to use your gender as a shield to hide your ill-mannered behaviour. Ask any woman, she would not accept it,” she told journalists outside Parliament.
Agitated over Modi’s remark, Congress MPs created an uproar in the Rajya Sabha and forced it to adjourn.
Hardly had the House paid homage to its former member Frida Topno, when Congress lawmakers were on their feet protesting Modi’s swipe at Chowdhury.
Chairman Naidu chided them for their “unbecoming” behaviour and asked them to resume their seats. As the Congress members refused to relent, he adjourned the House till noon.