The women’s wing of the Congress today called for an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “utterly sexist” remark about party MP Renuka Chowdhury, saying that the comment insulted every woman in the country. The All India Mahila Congress said Modi should apologise to the nation and to Chowdhury for his “Ramayana” comment. The remark belittled the office of the prime minister and was an insult to every woman in the country, Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev said. Chowdhury had burst out laughing when Modi claimed in the Rajya Sabha yesterday that the concept of Aadhaar was mooted in 1998 by then home minister L K Advani. The loud guffaw prompted Modi to say he had not heard such laughter since the serial ‘Ramayana’. Demonic laughs often figured in the series, telecast in the late eighties. “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. Dev described the 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. Noting that Chowdhury was a long-standing Parliamentarian, Dev said it was “extremely unfortunate” that she had been mocked in this manner. She said Modi should apologise to Chowdhury and the nation “for speaking in a manner which encourages disrespectful behaviour towards women”. Dev also said she was not surprised by the remark because the prime minister had “never understood” the role a woman played as an equal partner in society.
She also hit out at the RSS, saying that its thought process militated against the idea of equal positions for women in society. Dev went on to add that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had reportedly said women should restrict themselves to doing household chores. “It is this RSS training, as a pracharak that reflects in the PM’s attitude and comments,” Dev said. She also referred to the “shameful misogynist” remarks Modi had allegedly made against Bangladesh leader Sheikh Hasina and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s wife, Sunanda Pushkar.
In 2015, while in Dhaka, Modi had hailed Hasina’s “unshakable resolve” in fighting terrorism, and added, “despite being a woman leader”. At an election rally in Shimla in 2012, Modi had described Pushkar as Tharoor’s “50-crore-rupee girlfriend”. The reference was apparently to a 2010 IPL cricket controversy involving Pushkar. Dev also said the allegations of the police snooping on a woman in Gujarat while Modi was the state’s chief minister would “perpetually haunt” him.