Cornered by a united opposition and isolated within the BJP, union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti expressed regret for using abusive language at a rally in the capital .
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 from 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 children of Lord Ram or illegitimate children).
The issue created an uproar in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
While the uproar in the lower house settled after Jyoti offered to apologise, members in the Rajya Sabha refused to compromise, and demanded that the minister be sacked.
In both the houses, opposition members were on their feet as soon as proceedings began at 11 a.m., protesting the comments by the minister who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in minority, both the zero hour and question hour were lost to noisy protests, and it was finally adjourned for the day around 2.30 p.m. without transacting any business other than routine laying of papers.
Taking the opportunity to corner the government, opposition members also slammed Prime Minister Modi for not coming to parliament.
“The minister has abused the people of India,” thundered Congress leader Ashwani Kumar.
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati said the union 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.
The government, while regretting the remark, made it amply clear it was not unforgivable.
Naqvi pointed out in the Rajya Sabha that foul language has been used by Congress ministers as well 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 apologise 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, BSP and the Left Front united against the minister.
Finance Minister and leader of house Arun Jaitley appealed for calm in the Rajya Sabha.
“The minister made a statement yesterday (Monday) which is not acceptable,” he said. “She has expressed regret and even apologised.”
“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 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 adjourned at least four times till 12.15 p.m., and then till 2 p.m. Protests continued after that as well, and the house, after being adjourned for 10 minutes again, was finally adjourned for the day around 2.30 p.m.
Making a comment outside parliament, Jyoti said there was no need for her to resign.
“I have apologised, the matter should end now. What else can I do? There is no need for me to resign,” she said.
Addressing a press conference later, Rudy said Jyoti was “very regretful”.
“She was very regretful. The opposition did raise the demand (for apology), and she apologised. It is highly regretable and there is no scope for such comments in political life,” Rudy said.
He, however, refused to comment on the opposition’s demand to sack her.
“She has apologised truthfully,” said Rudy, adding that the matter has settled in the Lok Sabha, and shall settle in the Rajya Sabha as well.
However, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Jyoti did not tender an apology.
“She said she will apologise if the members want. She did not tender an apology,” Yechury told reporters.
“The statement is so outrageous, she should not continue,” he said.