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Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's 'Rashtrapatni' remark stokes controversy, BJP demands apology

Congress sources said Sonia was upset about the remark, which Chowdhury blamed on his 'poor Hindi' and 'slip of tongue'
Last Updated : 29 July 2022, 10:39 IST

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Congress Lok Sabha Leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury drove his party straight into controversy on Thursday by describing President Droupadi Murmu as 'Rashtrapatni', a "derogatory" remark that the ruling BJP utilised to corner the main Opposition party in Parliament by demanding Sonia Gandhi's apology.

Chowdhury, who made the remark during a media interaction on Wednesday evening, owned up to the mistake and said he will apologise to the President but not to “the (BJP) pakhandis (hypocrites)” after a meeting with Sonia before Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sat for business. However, the BJP MPs first held a protest march inside Parliament House.

Congress sources said Sonia was upset about the remark, which Chowdhury blamed on his "poor Hindi" and "slip of tongue". He said he has sought appointment with Murmu to tender an apology.

The controversial comment gave the opportunity for the BJP to turn the heat on the Opposition, which has been disrupting the proceedings in Parliament over their demand for an immediate discussion on price rise since the start of the Monsoon Session on July 18.

As soon as the House assembled, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani led the charge in Lok Sabha amid Opposition protest, seeking an apology from Sonia herself while alleging that the Congress cannot tolerate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a "poor tribal woman" the Presidential candidate.

Targeting Sonia, the Minister alleged that the Congress president "sanctioned humiliation of a poor tribal woman" who is occupying the highest constitutional post in the country. "Sonia Gandhi, maafi maango (Sonia Gandhi, apologise). Your male leaders are disrespecting a poor tribal woman," she said, as BJP women MPs shouted slogans against the Congress.

In Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman raised the issue as soon as the House assembled. With women MPs in support, Nirmala said, "Chowdhury's comments were not a slip of tongue. It was a deliberate sexist insult against the President."

"For the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha to call her 'rashtrapatni' in a 'pati-patni' (husband-wife) kind of a level, has insulted the President of India," she said adding, "I demand an apology from the Congress president, who herself is a woman" reasoning that Sonia herself has appointed Chowdhury.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said, "making such comments is bad. I don't know why it has happened and it is wrong."

Accusing the BJP of making a "mountain out of a molehill" over the issue, Chowdhury claimed that he used the term by mistake "once" and he never intended any disrespect to the President.

"What should I do? I said it and realised I uttered a wrong word. I even looked for mediapersons to request them to not focus on it. However, I couldn't find them. I am a Bengali and not used to Hindi. I made a mistake, I agree," he said.

He said he has sought time from the President on Friday and will apologise to her if she has been offended by his inadvertent comments.

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Published 28 July 2022, 05:31 IST

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