'Rastrapatni' remark slip of tongue: Chowdhury


Amid the din, Chowdhury said he never insulted the President and claimed that his remark ‘Rashtrapatni’ before a TV crew was a mistake due to a slip of the tongue. But BJP’s protests drowned his defence.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury at Parliament House during ongoing Monsoon Session, in New Delhi.

Both Houses witnessed stormy scenes and serial adjournments after government mounted an all-out attack on the Congress leadership over its Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury‘s remark, ‘Rastrapatni’, made a day earlier outside Parliament, while referring to Rashtrapati Droupadi Murmu.

The government fielded ministers, Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha, and Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman in the Rajya Sabha, to allege that Chowdhury and Congress ‘deliberately insulted’ women and the President, who is a woman and a tribal. They alleged Congress chief Sonia Gandhi “sanctioned humiliation of the President” and sought her apology.

Amid the din, Chowdhury said he never insulted the President and claimed that his remark ‘Rashtrapatni’ before a TV crew was a mistake due to a slip of the tongue. But BJP‘s protests drowned his defence.

As soon as the Lok Sabha assembled, BJP MPs rose in protest over Chowdhury’s remark and Speaker Om Birla allowed Irani to raise the issue. Attacking Chowdhury, Congress and Sonia Gandhi, who was sitting next to Chowdhury, Irani pointed her finger to Congress benches and said: “You stand guilty of insulting the supreme commander of the armed forces; you stand guilty of humiliating a tribal leader; the Congress party cannot stand the honour bestowed to a tribal; it is unable to digest the fact that a poor tribal woman has become the President of India.”

Irani then targeted Gandhi: “Sonia Gandhi, you sanctioned the humiliation of Droupadi Murmu. Sonia ji sanctioned the humiliation of a woman in the highest constitutional post. Sonia ji sanctioned the humiliation of a poor woman who ascended to the highest office of the country. You sanctioned the insult of every Indian citizen. Through your male Congress workers and leaders, you continue to demean the Office of the President of India. Apologise to the nation! Sonia Gandhi, apologise to the tribal, poor and women of the country.”

As the NDA benches were up in arms, the Speaker adjourned the House. The continuing protests forced two more LS adjournments, paralysing proceedings for the day.

In the Rajya Sabha, Goyal and Sitharaman slammed Chowdhury and sought his and Sonia Gandhi’s apology. “It was a deliberate sexist insult. Sonia Gandhi should apologise to the President of India and the country,” Sitharaman said. It is a common understanding that ‘Rashtrapati’ is a gender agnostic word, representing the leader of the nation,” Sitharaman said.

Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi too demanded an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi for Chowdhury’s remark. Amid the protests and din, the Chair adjourned the House for the day. The row, incidentally, coincided with the opposition’s escalation of protests over the government not accepting their demand for a debate on inflation and GST, and by seeking revocation of MPs’ suspension.

( Originally published on Jul 28, 2022 )

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