New Delhi: Cornered by a united opposition and isolated within the BJP, union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Tuesday expressed regret in parliament for using abusive language at a party rally in the capital.
The government said the matter was closed with her expressing regret, but Congress members indicated that they intended to press the issue in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday.
Addressing a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked party MPs to be cautious when making comments in public.
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti 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 Modi government.
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 comment 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 back down, and demanded that she be sacked from the council of ministers.
In both the houses, opposition members were on their feet as soon as proceedings began at 11 a.m., protesting the comment of the minister, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.
The Sadhvi, who was inducted into the union council of ministers last month, has on the Lok Sabha website listed “intermediate” as her educational qualification and “social worker” as her profession. Born into the “nishad” caste, she was earlier a BJP legislator from Hamirpur 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 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 minister must resign.
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, with members from the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP and the Left Front uniting against the minister.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Jyoti did not tender an apology.
“The statement is so outrageous, she should not continue,” Yechury said, and demanded that a police complaint be filed against the minister.
Finance Minister and leader of the house Arun Jaitley appealed for calm in the Rajya Sabha and said the minister expressed regret and even apologised.
“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.
Jyoti later 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.”
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the matter was closed after Jyoti offered to apologise.
“If somebody wants to take up the issue criminally, they are free to do so,” Naidu said outside Parliament House.
His colleague Rajiv Pratap Rudy hoped that opposition members in the Rajya Sabha were satisfied with the minister’s regret.
Congress member Renuka Chowdhury, however, said her party would raise the issue Wednesday also.