Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday slammed Rahul Gandhi for making a “horrendous” statement saying it was a matter of shame that the senior Congress leader was speaking by forgetting about dignity of women. At a press conference called to talk about steps taken by the government to boost economy, she was asked by a reporter about Gandhi’s comment at a public meeting in Jharkhand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised ‘Make in India’ but “wherever you see now you find ‘rape in India’”.
She said Gandhi made a “horrendous” statement and she could have used it to divert attention from the economy. “It is a matter of shame that a senior leader of Congress party speaks forgetting dignity of women,” she added. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “rape in India” barb at the Modi government at an election rally in Jharkhand triggered furious protests in Lok Sabha by BJP members who sought an apology from him, with Union minister Rajnath Singh stating that leaders like him have no “moral right” to be in Parliament.
The BJP protest, led by the party’s women MPs who assembled together just near the Well to attack Gandhi, derailed the scheduled business of Lok Sabha and forced Speaker Om Birla to adjourn the proceedings twice. Friday was the last day of the Winter Session. Amid the din in the House, DMK’s Kanimozhi defended Gandhi as Congress members also came out of their seats in protest and asked the Speaker to take up the Question Hour.
She said Gandhi did not make the remarks in the House and that he was referring to cases of sexual assaults and violence against women in the country. Kanimozhi’s reaction came after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi asked her and NCP leader Supriya Sule to express their opinion about Gandhi’s remarks.
Joshi termed her response “unfortunate”. Speaking at a public meeting in Jharkhand, where assembly elections are underway, Gandhi had said on Thursday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised ‘Make in India’ but “wherever you see now you find ‘rape in India’” in different parts of the country.
The saffron party seized on his “rape in India” barb to corner his party. The protests began as soon as the House assembled. After the House paid tributes to those who had lost their lives in the 2001 Parliament attack on this day, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said several BJP members had given notices of adjournment against Gandhi’s remarks and they should be allowed to speak.
Tearing into the Congress leader, Union minister Smriti Irani said he had “insulted” the women and men of India and claimed his remarks amounted to inviting people to rape women. Seeking his apology, Irani said he should be punished. Joining the issue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attacked Gandhi and said such MPs don’t have moral right to be a member of the House.
Gandhi has hurt not only the House but the entire country, he said. Singh said the Modi government had started ‘Make in India’ programme to transform India from an importing nation into an exporting one.
It is aimed at providing employment to youth in the country, but people are now rhyming it with remarks which cannot be uttered, Singh said. “Such members have no moral right to be a member of Lok Sabha,” the senior BJP leader said, demanding apology from Gandhi. The Congress leader should apologise to the entire nation, he said.
He recalled that BJP members Ananth Hegde and Sadhavi Nirajan Jyoti had expressed regret in the House for remarks made outside. Both were then ministers. Jyoti is a minister in the present dispensation as well.
BJP MP Locket Chatterjee said Gandhi had insulted not only women of the country but everyone. All men are not rapists, she said. Irani also said Gandhi referred to rape cases to make mockery of his political rivals which is condemnable.
She said Kanimozhi’s defence of Gandhi was “disgusting to to say the least”. Earlier in the morning, as the ruckus continued for around half-an-hour, the speaker adjourned the proceedings till noon. Question Hour could not be taken up. More than 30 members from the BJP, including Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur, were seen standing in the aisle and shouting slogans. Congress members, too, were in the aisle.
(With Agency Inputs)