New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “rape in India” barb at the BJP-led government at the Centre during an election rally in Jharkhand led to vociferous protests in the Lok Sabha on Friday by BJP members who demanded an apology from him, with defence minister Rajnath Singh saying leaders like him have no “moral right” to be in Parliament.
A combative Gandhi hit out at the government and the BJP, saying he will never apologise, and instead demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that Modi had called Delhi the “rape capital” during the UPA period. He also sought the PM’s response on why he had destroyed the economy and had “snatched jobs” from young people.
The BJP protest, led by the party’s women MPs who assembled near the Well to attack Gandhi, derailed the Lok Sabha’s regular business and forced Speaker Om Birla to adjourn the proceedings twice. Friday was the last day of the Winter Session.
Amid the din in the House, DMK MP K. Kanimozhi defended Gandhi as Congress members also came out of their seats in protest, and asked the Speaker to take up Question Hour.
She said Gandhi did not make the remarks in the House and that he was referring to cases of sexual assaults and violence against women in India. Kanimozhi’s reaction came as parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi asked her and NCP leader Supriya Sule to express their opinion on Gandhi’s remarks. Joshi termed her response “unfortunate”.
Speaking at a public meeting in Jharkhand, where Assembly elections are under way, Gandhi said on Thursday that Narendra Modi had promised “Make in India” but “wherever you see now you find ‘rape in India’” in different parts of the country.
The BJP seized on his “rape in India” barb to corner the Congress.
The protests began as soon as the House assembled. Tearing into the Congress leader, Union minister Smriti Irani said he had “insulted” the women and men of India and claimed his remarks amounted to inviting people to rape women. Seeking his apology, Irani said that he should be punished.
Joining in, defence minister Rajnath Singh attacked Gandhi and said such MPs don’t have the moral right to be members of the House. Irani also said Gandhi referred to rape cases to make a mockery of his political rivals, which she said was condemnable. She said Kanimozhi’s defence of Gandhi was “disgusting, to say the least”.
Earlier in the morning, as the ruckus continued for over half an hour, the Speaker adjourned the proceedings till noon. Question Hour could not be taken up.
More than 30 members from the BJP, including Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur, had stood in the aisle and shouted slogans. Congress members too were in the aisle.
Later, Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament that “as far as their (BJP’s) demand for apologising (is concerned), I am never going to apologise to them”.
He also clarified his rape statement that triggered the protests by the BJP in both Houses of Parliament, saying he had simply made a point that Modi has been talking about “Made in India” but it has now become “rape in India” as incidents of rapes are being reported in newspapers across the country.
He said the main issue today was that “the BJP, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have burnt the entire Northeast and this is a tactic used to divert attention” by raising his rape remarks.
The Congress MP from Wayanad said he has a video clip of Narendra Modi in his phone in which he terms Delhi the “rape capital” and he will put the clip on Twitter....