New Delhi: Cornered by the opposition and isolated within the BJP, central minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Tuesday expressed regrets for using abusive language at a rally here.
The minister read out near identical statements in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha after opposition parties ganged up against her and demanded that she be sacked from the Narendra Modi government.
The government distanced itself against her remarks.
The minister reportedly said at a public meeting here: “Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki.” (You have to decide if you want a government in Delhi to be led by the children of Lord Ram or illegitimate children).
As soon as parliament met, opposition members were on their feet against the comments by the minister of state for food processing industries who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.
In the Rajya Sabha, both the zero hour and question hour were lost to noisy protests. The house was finally adjourned till 2 p.m.
Some MPs slammed Prime Minister Modi for not coming to parliament.
“The minister has abused the people of India,” thundered Congress leader Ashwani Kumar.
BSP leader Mayawati said the minister’s comments were against the spirit of the constitution. “The minister must resign,” she said.
Barring Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Bharatiya Janata Party members remained silent during the din.
Naqvi told the Rajya Sabha that Congress ministers too had used foul language in the past.
Under all round attack, the minister said in the Rajya Sabha: “I regret if my words hurt anyone’s feelings… I am ready to apologize if the members want.”
But the opposition was not satisfied.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said: “This has become a regular feature. Every day someone speaks against the constitution. The minister has admitted her crime in the house.”
Members from the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left united against the minister.
Finance Minister and house leader Arun Jaitley appealed for calm.
“The minister made a statement yesterday (Monday) which is not acceptable,” he said. “She has expressed regret and even apologized.
“As far as the proceedings are concerned, when the offence is made outside the house, law will take its course. Anything happening outside is not the business of this house,” he said.
In the Lok Sabha too, Sadhvi Jyoti said: “I didn’t have any ill intention. But whatever words that I spoke, I express my deep regret and I accept what I said.”
Following the statement, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan cautioned all members to be mindful of their speech.
The Rajya Sabha was repeatedly adjourned, and finally until 2 p.m. The Lok Sabha was briefly adjourned during question hour. But the opposition insisted that the minister be sacked.
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- Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, sworn in last month as minister of state, had used an expletive at a public meeting as she said, “People of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (followers of Ram) or a government of those who are illegitimate.”
- She later said her statement was “for those who don’t believe in Ram and in unified India.” The minister said, “In this country, whether it is Christians or Muslims, all are sons of Ram. Those who don’t accept it don’t believe in the country.”
- A howl of protests in Parliament forced Ms Jyoti to apologise in both houses, saying, “It was not my intention to offend anybody. I express regret from my heart and withdraw my words.”
- Opposition parties said an apology is not enough. They demanded that Mr Modi remove his minister and that criminal charges be framed against her. “We have made it absolutely clear. We cannot accept the situation where the minister lowers the dignity of the government,” said the Congress’ Anand Sharma.
- CPM leader Sitaram Yechury accused Ms Jyoti of breaking the law by “committed offence under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code which is creating communal divide amongst different groups.” He also said, “She has committed an offence…and till an investigation is over, she can’t remain a minister. Her apology is an admission of her crime.”
- In the Rajya Sabha, Mr Yechury sparred with Finance Minister and leader of house Arun Jaitley, who said, “The comments are improper and unacceptable,” but also added that the minister had withdrawn her words and the matter must end in the house.
- Talking to reporters, Ms Sadhvi said her comments must not be assigned communal overtones. She also emphasised that she had apologised in both Houses of Parliament and asked, “what else can I do?”
- Mr Yechury and other opposition leaders have indicated that they will continue to disrupt proceedings over their demand for action against the minister. After repeated adjournments, Rajya Sabha was adjournmed for the day around 2 pm.
- Ms Jyoti’s apology in Parliament came not long after a sharp warning from PM Modi. “Don’t address the nation. There will be no compromise on this,” he cautioned party MPs in the morning, without taking names.
- The 47-year-old saffron-robed Niranjan Jyoti is the junior minister for food processing. Known for her religious discourses, the Sadhvi is a first-time MP from Uttar Pradesh and among the six BJP MPs drafted into the party’s campaign for the Delhi polls due early next year.
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