Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has stoked a controversy by allegedly making communal remarks and using an expletive in an election rally here, leaving the BJP and the government embarrassed as an angry Opposition demanded that she be sacked.
The remarks that voters of Delhi should choose between “Ram’s sons” and “illegitimate sons” drew the ire of Opposition which protested in Parliament following which Jyoti expressed “deep regret” and apologised for her actions and said she did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings.
The issue rocked both the Houses as agitated opposition MPs disrupted proceedings, seeking an explanation from the Prime Minister and demanding an apology from Jyoti, who is Minister of state for food processing industries and had joined the Narendra Modi Ministry early last month.
“The Prime Minister should give an explanation,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
BSP chief Mayawati said the minister’s remarks were against the secular ethos espoused by the Constitution and do not behold a person occupying a constitutional post.
The BJP should sack her, she said.
She and CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury demanded that an FIR be filed against Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
The Congress alleged that Jyoti had insulted the people of Delhi and she should issue an apology while the Aam Aadmi Party said it was the BJP’s real face.
“The divisive thinking and divisive politics of the BJP has been exposed,” Congress leader Ambika Soni said.
Niranjan was initially defiant saying she was only referring to the “anti-nationals” in her speech made in west Delhi yesterday.
“I was referring to the anti-nationals, those who compromise with its borders, its integrity. What else do you call people who loot the nation…? What should we call them? Why is it being objected to,” she said when questioned on the use of expletives.
Later, outside Parliament, the Minister was asked about demands for her resignation. “I have apologised and I have nothing else to say,” she replied.
BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said it was a “slip of tongue” and the issue should not be politicised.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said those in the government and the opposition should use dignified langugage and in the past UPA ministers too had crossed the line many times.
Manish Sisodia of Aam Aadmi Party said, “This is the real character of BJP. Their language shows what kind of work they are doing at the Centre and what kind of work they will do for Delhi.”
The BJP said the issue should not be stretched after the Minister has tendered an apology. It also hit out at Congress, saying several of its leaders had made objectionable remarks in the past.
“But have they ever been asked to resign. When did Congress sack them from the party. And they are called experienced leaders while Sadhvi Niranjan has become MP for the first time,” UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai said.
Jyoti has been elected from Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
“My intention was not to hurt anyone. If my speech outside the House has hurt anyone, I express my deep regrets and accept…,” Jyoti said in Lok Sabha.
In Rajya Sabha, she said, “If certain words spoken by me outside the House have hurt someone, I take back my words and offer regrets. However, if the House feels so, I am also ready to seek an apology.”
Members of Congress, TMC, SP and other opposition parties rushed to the Well during the uproar over her remarks leading to four adjournments in Rajya Sabha and one in Lok Sabha during pre-lunch sitting.
Jyoti had earlier defended her remarks while speaking to the media and even commented that all the people in the country are “offsprings of Ram”.
“Those who have sold the country, made it bankrupt, people will not voter for such people. Taking Ram’s name, talking about Ram, is it communalism?
“Muslims offer namaz in mosques, we do no object. Christians pray in churches, we do not object. Then talking about Ram should not be termed as communal. And those who call me communal, I would say what could be more communal than this,” she said.
“Do you want a government of people who believe in Ram, a government that believes in people. And I would like to say one more thing, be it Hindu or a Christian in the country, he is an offspring of Ram. And those who refuse to believe this, will never believe in this country also,” she said.
Members from Opposition parties like Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), D Raja (CPI) and Sharad Yadav (JD-U) too said that the Minister’s remarks were “unconstitutional” and demanded that she should be sacked from the Council of Ministers.
However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu rejected the demand saying the matter has ended after the minister realised her mistake and apologised.
“She has realised her mistake and acknowledged it, so the matter ends there…. She told me that she never intended it, so I counselled her. What is wrong with it. As the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, it is my duty to coordinate among the ministers, opposition…,” he told reporters.
“She is a woman from an economically weaker background who has risen without all sorts of support,” he said, adding many Congress leaders have used objectionable words in the past and never even apologised.
At the rally yesterday, Jyoti had targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son-in-law Robert Vadra.