Minister of state for food processing industries Niranjan Jyoti Tuesday tendered an apology in Parliament for using abusive language at an election campaign in Delhi but failed to douse the opposition fire even as the Bharatiya Janata Party Tuesday said the issue should not be stretched.
On Monday, Jyoti had said people of Delhi must decide if they wanted a government of Ramzaadon (followers of Ram) or a government of those who are illegitimate.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in Rajya Sabha the government did not support Jyoti's remark, but he also asked the Opposition to "maintain decorum."
Naqvi said those in the government and the opposition should use dignified language and in the past UPA ministers too had crossed the line many times.
As Rajya Sabha session was adjourned for a third time, finance minister Arun Jaitley said Jyoti's comments were "improper and unacceptable".
He said since the minister had apologised and withdrawn her statement, "what happens outside isn't within domain of this House".
But BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra seemed to be defending her by saying it was a "slip of tongue" and the issue should not be politicised.
The saffron party also hit out at Congress, saying several of its leaders too have made objectionable remarks in the past.
"But have they ever been asked to resign? When did Congress sack them from the party? And they are called experienced leaders while Sadhvi Niranjan has become MP for the first time," UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai said.
According to reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked party MPs to abstain from addressing the nation and also condemned the comments made by Jyoti.
Modi asked the MPs to avoid making uncalled for statements at the parliamentary board meeting held ahead of Parliament session on Tuesday.
Opposition demands resignation
The issue rocked both the Houses as agitated opposition MPs disrupted proceedings, seeking an explanation from the Prime Minister and demanding an apology from Jyoti, who joined the Narendra Modi's cabinet early last month.
The remarks drew the ire of Opposition which protested in Parliament following which Jyoti expressed "deep regret" and apologised for her actions saying she did not intend to hurt anyone's feelings.
"My intention was not to hurt anyone. If my speech outside the House has hurt anyone, I express my deep regrets," Jyoti said in Lok Sabha.
She said if certain words spoken by her outside the House have hurt someone, she is ready to take back her words and offer regrets. She also said she is ready to seek an apology.
The Opposition, however, refused to accept her apology and said she must resign or should be removed from her post.
Drama in House
As soon as Lok Sabha met for the day, Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress, took up the issue with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Kharge said the "objectionable" language used by Jyoti had created tension at a time when there had been quite a few communal riots.
Several Congress and Trinamool Congress members, too, rushed to the Well, shouting slogans.
Both Houses saw brief adjournments over the protests, even as Mahajan cautioned all members to be mindful of their speech.
"The Prime Minister should give an explanation," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati said the minister's remarks were against the secular ethos espoused by the Constitution and do not behold a person occupying a constitutional post.
The BJP should sack her, she said.
Mayawati and CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury demanded that an FIR be filed against Jyoti.
The Congress alleged that Jyoti had insulted the people of Delhi and she should issue an apology while the Aam Aadmi Party said it was the BJP's real face.
"The divisive thinking and divisive politics of the BJP has been exposed," Congress leader Ambika Soni said.
Manish Sisodia of Aam Aadmi Party said, "This is the real character of BJP. Their language shows what kind of work they are doing at the Centre and what kind of work they will do for Delhi."
Members of Congress, TMC, SP and other opposition parties rushed to the Well during the uproar over her remarks leading to four adjournments in Rajya Sabha and one in Lok Sabha during pre-lunch sitting.
Later, outside Parliament, the minister was asked about demands for her resignation.
"I have apologised and I have nothing else to say," she replied.
Following the controversy, Jyoti said, "I did not take name of any particular individual, community or party. I was talking about separatist parties and leaders who think of dividing the country..."
She later clarified her statement was for those who didn't believe in Ram and unified India, adding her remarks must not be given any communal overtone.
"Those who have sold the country, made it bankrupt, people will not voter for such people. Is it a crime to talk about Ram? How can talking about Ram be communal?"
"Muslims offer namaz in mosques, we do no object. Christians pray in churches, we do not object. Then talking about Ram should not be termed as communal. And those who call me communal, I would say what could be more communal than this."
"Do you want a government of people who believe in Ram, a government that believes in people. And i would like to say one more thing, be it Hindu or a Christian in the country, he is an offspring of Ram. And those who refuse to believe this, will never believe in this country also," she said.
Jyoti is credited with helping the ruling BJP make inroads among the Dalit and backward classes in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.
She is among the six BJP MPs drafted into the party's campaign for the Delhi polls due early next year.
( With PTI inputs)
Watch:Union minister Niranjan Jyoti speaks on the controversy