NEW DELHI: While the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha failed to transact any business on Friday due to the face-off between the government and the opposition over Union minister Smriti Irani allegedly heckling Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and over Adhir Chowdhury’s remark about President Droupadi Murmu, the row also reached Rashtrapati Bhavan, with Chowdhury sending an apology letter to the President for his “slip of the tongue”.
Meanwhile, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, protested against the remarks about Sonia Gandhi made by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and leader of the House Piyush Goyal in the RS on Thursday, urging the chairman in a letter that they be expunged from the records. Kharge also demanded an apology from the two ministers. He said raising the issues pertaining to the Lok Sabha in the Rajya Sabha was a “grave procedural irregularity”.
Congress, backed by other opposition parties like DMK, NCP and Left, raised slogans targeting Irani, and rushed to the well of the Lower House. BJP members also stood up on their seats – leading to two fleeting proceedings and adjournments. While most treasury benches were vacant when the House started in the morning, the ministers, including Irani, were present when it met again. Sonia was also present in the House. The House was adjourned within a couple of minutes of convening in the morning, and as protests continued, it was called off for the day.
The complete paralysis of the lower House reflected the bitter confrontation between Congress and BJP on Thursday, when the latter seized upon Chowdhury’s remark to target Sonia. Later, Congress was enraged over what it termed “abusive” behaviour of Irani towards their party chief. Congress has moved a privilege motion through a letter to the Speaker on the issue, and urged him to refer it to the privileges committee for action.
The issue also reverberated in the Rajya Sabha. While members of the treasury benches were also on their feet to protest against Chowdhury’s “Rashtrapatni” remark, the opposition members demanded Irani’s sacking for allegedly heckling Sonia. For the second week in a row, the Upper House failed to transact any significant business due to disruptions.
Chaired by Sonia Gandhi, Congress MPs held a meeting in the Parliament office on Friday morning, where they slammed BJP for “making an issue out of a non-issue”.