Renuka vs Modi is no laughing matter

Renuka vs Modi is no laughing matter

Renuka vs Modi is no laughing matter

They say life is better when you are laughing. Not in the Parliament though. Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury cackled loudly during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Rajya Sabha speech last week, when he said that the Aadhar was conceptualised in 1998 by then home minister LK Advani. In a blistering riposte, the PM asked a vexed speaker of the House, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, to not admonish Renuka as he was getting a chance to hear such laughter for the first time, after the Ramayan serial.

As far as bad behaviour in the Parliament goes, this is not even a blip on the radar. Yet it sparked a nationwide debate about misogyny, patriarchy and laughter at the wrong time.

"Let's be clear, people do laugh in the Parliament. It is one of the ways of addressing issues and taking sarcastic digs at the opposition," points out Harish Ramaswamy, political commentator.

"While the PM's reply was witty, I have a difference of opinion when you see a woman's laughter as a demonic act. Though the reply was kind of soft, the intent seems to have been intense," he says.

In a society where girls are told to be visible and not audible, a woman who laughs with gay abandon is a subject of much discomfort. The PM, who seemed to be more riled by the dismissiveness of the guffaw, did no service to the dignity of his position with the counter remark. If MPs can thump tables and throw around chairs, a woman can laugh.

But the loud laugh was not appropriate for a leader representing a national party, says Shobha Karandlaje, BJP MP and State General Secretary. "As a minister of the Government of India, Renuka should have behaved responsibly. There should be some respect for the Prime Minister even if the school of thought is different."

She adds, "I don't think his remark was a personal attack on her. He just referenced the serial in a lighter vein. He did not degrade her, she degraded herself."