'Rashtrapatni' remark row: Sonia Gandhi slams Smriti Irani in Parliament; says 'don't talk to me'
The heated exchange occurred during a break in the Lok Sabha, which had been adjourned due to loud protests by BJP MPs against Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
After the 'Rashtrapatni' remark by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a controversy erupted in Parliament on Thursday. Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi crossed the floor to speak with a Bharatiya Janata Party MP. When Smriti Irani intervened and Sonia Gandhi said, "You, don't talk to me," as per sources.
The heated exchange occurred during a break in the Lok Sabha, adjourned due to loud protests by BJP MPs against Sonia Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
"Apologies, Sonia Gandhi," Smriti Irani said in the House as members of the ruling BJP held placards.
The Union Minister said, "Sonia Gandhi, you approved of Droupadi Murmu's humiliation. Sonia Ji approved of humiliating a woman in the highest constitutional position."
After the Lok Sabha Speaker adjourned, the House, Sonia Gandhi was about to leave when she decided to walk to the slogan-shouting BJP MPs. Two more Congress MPs accompanied her.
The Congress interim president crossed the House's floor and reportedly said to the BJP MP Rama Devi that "Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had already apologised. Why I'm being forced into this?" As per sources, Smriti Irani intervened and said, May I assist you, Madam? I took your name." Congress leader Sonia Gandhi retorted, "You don't talk to me." Protests erupted on the BJP benches, and opposition members retaliated.
Sonia Gandhi was seen being drawn away from the shouting BJP members by Trinamool Congress MPs and NCP's Supriya Sule. Later, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi intervened to calm the situation.
In her account of the incident, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman slammed Sonia Gandhi. Sitharaman said, "When Sonia Gandhi approached our senior leader Rama Devi to find out what was going on, one of our members approached her, and she (Sonia Gandhi) said, You don't talk to me, putting our MP down in the House. So, instead of remorse from the Congress party's highest leader, we find great aggression."
Congress leaders were outraged, accusing Smriti Irani of attacking their party's leader.
Jairam Ramesh, Congress party leader, tweeted and said, "Today, Union Minister Smriti Irani acted indecently and abusively in Lok Sabha! Will the speaker, however, condemn it? Are there only rules for the opposition?"
Meanwhile, following the 'Rashtrapatni' remark, Congress leader AR Chowdhury said, "I can't bear the thought of insulting the President. It was simply a mistake." He continued, "If the President is upset, I will personally meet with her and apologise. They are free to hang me. I am willing to be punished, but why is Sonia Gandhi being dragged into this?"
While talking to reporters, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "Sonia Gandhi has appointed Chowdhury as the leader in Lok Sabha to speak, and he has made a 'derogatory' remark about President Murmu. As a result, the Congress chief must apologise to the nation.
In response to Congress' claim that Chowdhury has already apologised for the remark, Patra said the MP should be 'punished' for demeaning the country's highest constitutional post.
On Thursday, the Lok Sabha was adjourned until 4 pm, and the Rajya Sabha was adjourned until 3 pm amid raucous scenes as BJP members strongly protested Chowdhury's remark about Murmu.
Outside Parliament, the Congress leader told reporters that referring to Murmu as 'Rashtrapatni' was a 'slip of the tongue,' and he accused the BJP of making a 'mountain out of a molehill' over the issue.