Adhir apologises to Murmu after furore

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 02:36 AM IST

The Congress’s Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Friday apologised to President Draupadi Murmu for his insensitive remarks about her that had led to a political storm and triggered a bitter spat between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union minister Smriti Irani in Parliament on Thursday.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury . (HT photo)
Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury . (HT photo)
By, New Delhi

The Congress’s Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Friday apologised to President Droupadi Murmu for his insensitive remarks about her that had led to a political storm and triggered a bitter spat between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union minister Smriti Irani in Parliament on Thursday.

In a letter to the newly elected President, Chowdhury wrote, “I am writing to express my regret for having mistakenly used an incorrect word to describe the position you held. I assure you that it was a slip of the tongue. I apologise and request you to accept the same.”

Senior Congress leaders hoped that the apology letter, as announced earlier by Chowdhury, will bring an end to the controversy and also protests by BJP members demanding Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s apology for Chowdhury’s inappropriate reference to the country’s highest office on Thursday. “It is also timely as we hope to move ahead and discuss the all-important issue of price rise next week in both Houses of Parliament,” said a senior leader.

A Congress strategist maintained that Sonia Gandhi “insisted” that without keeping the issue lingering any further, Chowdhury must tender an apology and send a letter to Murmu.

In a separate letter addressed to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Chowdhury slammed the ruling BJP, saying “Madam Rashtrapati Ji’s name is being unnecessarily dragged in order to gain cheap publicity and political one-upmanship”. He reiterated that his earlier remark on Murmu was a “mere slip of tongue”.

Attacking Irani, Chowdhury demanded “that the way Smt. Smriti Irani was addressing the Hon’ble President may be expunged from the proceedings of the House”. He alleged that the minister was “yelling” the President’s name “without prefixing Hon’ble President or Madame or Smt. before the Hon’ble President’s name”. “This clearly amounts to degrading the stature of the office of the Hon’ble President,” he said.

Chowdhury, in his letter, also said that all comments against Gandhi must be expunged as she “had nothing to do with this controversy”.

On Thursday, a bitter verbal face-off between Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Union minister Smriti Irani on the floor of the Lok Sabha ratcheted up political tensions as the comment by Chowdhury sparked an uproar and a wave of disruptions, forcing an adjournment, one of several seen through the day in both Houses of Parliament.

As the Lower House adjourned soon after 12pm, Gandhi walked over to the government benches up to BJP member Rama Devi, who was earlier presiding over the Lok Sabha, to tell her that Chowdhury had already apologised for his remarks and that the BJP should not drag her name into the controversy.

“Just as she was returning, a group of BJP women MPs, including Smriti Irani, shouted at her and said that she should also apologise for the remarks against the President… At that point, Gandhi told Irani not to speak to her,” said a person present during the exchange, requesting anonymity.

While the women MPs of the BJP led the protests in the Lok Sabha, several ministers and chief ministers such as Yogi Adityanath and Himanta Biswa Sharma slammed Chowdhury. Many BJP leaders refused to accept Chowdhury’s contention that it was a slip of the tongue and his limited grasp of Hindi led to the faux pass.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman led a group of women BJP members in protest against Gandhi and the Congress. “Some of our Lok Sabha MPs felt threatened when Sonia Gandhi came up to our senior leader Rama Devi to find out what was happening, and when one of our members approached her, she said, ‘you don’t talk to me’,” said Sitharaman.

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