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Sonia Gandhi, Smriti Irani face off in Lok Sabha post adjournment

BJP women members were seated in the front rows in the Lok Sabha as they led the protests in the House against Chowdhury's remarks
Last Updated : 28 July 2022, 16:43 IST

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A post-adjournment chat between Sonia Gandhi and senior BJP MP Rama Devi in Lok Sabha over demand for her apology over Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s controversial remarks on President Droupadi Murmu on Thursday turned ugly after Union Minister Smriti Irani intervened in the conversation and was seen gesturing at the Congress chief.

The incident added more fuel to the already raging controversy over Congress Lok Sabha leader Chowdhury's 'Rashtrapatni' remark on which the ruling BJP was demanding an apology from Sonia herself, claiming that her party was insulting the President.

As soon as the Lok Sabha adjourned soon after 12 noon following protests by both the ruling and Opposition benches, Sonia who was walking out moved to the Treasury benches to speak to Rama Devi. Sonia asked Rama Devi why the BJP was demanding her apology when Chowdhury himself has apologised and the party conveying it to Speaker Om Birla.

The BJP MP told Sonia that she was the leader of the party and it was natural to demand an apology from her. At this juncture, Smriti intervened and is claimed to have told Sonia to speak to her on the issue. Sonia initially ignored Smriti's remarks but soon after told the minister not to speak to her.

The BJP women MPs then flocked around Sonia and Rama Devi, leading to a commotion. Immediately, NCP's Supriya Sule and Trinamool Congress' Aparoopa Poddar escorted a visibly upset Sonia out of the Lok Sabha chambers.

Outside the House, Rama Devi recounted the sequence of events and said that Sonia asked her why her name was dragged into the issue. "What is my fault?" the BJP MP quoted Sonia asking her. To this, she claimed, she told her that she was the party chief and she appointed Chowdhury.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters that Sonia spoke in a “threatening tone” with BJP members though she did not mention any specific leader. Some non-Congress, non-BJP MPs said that Sonia did not speak in a threatening tone but was visibly upset at Smriti's intervention.

Congress accused BJP MPs of subjecting Sonia Gandhi to "brutal heckling, verbal assault and physical intimidation" and demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a statement, Congress General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh said that Smriti "behaved inappropriately" with Sonia and hurled "abusive words" at her. "When Sonia-ji politely told her that she is not talking to her but to another MP, Smriti Irani shouted, you don't know me, who I am," Ramesh claimed.

Sonia got support from a number of non-Congress Opposition MPs. NCP's Supriya Sule said she was "shocked to hear unnecessary sloganeering against Mrs Gandhi after the house was adjourned. We all should take responsibility for the House and maintain its dignity and decorum".

Trinamool Congress' Mohua Moitra tweeted, she "was in Lok Sabha when 75-year-old lady senior leader encircled and heckled pack-wolf style when all she did was walk over and speak (masked) to another senior lady panel chairperson...Disgusted to read BJP lies and false version in press".

Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha Deputy Leader Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted, "this is shameful and bully behaviour of BJP MPs. Has to be condemned by one and all, this hooliganism that was led by a hysterical minister who herself is facing charges of illegal operations in Goa, besides fake education affidavits should be called out."

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Published 28 July 2022, 10:01 IST

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