Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on rape cases stir heated exchange
Outside the Lok Sabha after the House was adjourned sine die, Gandhi clarified his remarks and mounted a counter attack on the BJP and the Prime Minister.Updated: Dec 16, 2019 10:23 IST
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members of Parliament on Friday, the last day of the current Winter Session, sought an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who, taking a jibe at the government’s ambitious Make in India campaign at an election rally in Jharkhand a day before, said this wasn’t happening and instead, “wherever you look, it is Rape in India”.
Both houses witnessed disruptions over the comment.
In the Lok Sabha, some BJP members, including Union minister Smriti Irani, suggested that Gandhi’s remark was an invitation to rape women in India.
“This is the first time in history that a leader and the son of the Gandhi family is giving a clarion call that Indian women should be raped. Is this Rahul Gandhi’s message to the people of the country?” Irani said.
Outside the Lok Sabha after the House was adjourned sine die, Gandhi clarified his remarks and mounted a counter attack on the BJP and the Prime Minister.
“The main issue today was that the BJP and PM Modi have set the North-east on fire [over the citizenship amendment Act]... It [the fracas over the comment] was an attempt to deflect attention,” he said.
“It is Prime Minister Modi who should apologise for destroying the economy, for snatching jobs from the youth and an older video where he called Delhi the rape capital (of India),” Gandhi said.
In the Lok Sabha, after demands for an apology from Gandhi were raised by the treasury bench, Congress members said the government was trying to divert attention from the violent protests in north-eastern states [over the Citizenship Amendment Act] and countered the BJP’s charge by seeking justice for Unnao rape victim.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla first adjourned the House for half-an-hour at 11:30am and then for 15 minutes at 12pm.
As soon as the House assembled after the first adjournment, defence minister Rajnath Singh rose to say members who made comments [such as the one Gandhi had made] do not have the moral right to be in the House. By then, Gandhi was present in the Lok Sabha.
Singh, who is also the deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, said Gandhi’s comments have not only hurt the House but the entire country.
Demanding an apology from Gandhi, Singh said that when BJP members Ananth Hegde and Niranjan Jyoti made controversial remarks, they expressed regret in the House.
But Gandhi, who is a Lok Sabha member from Kerala’s Wayanad, turned down the demand. “I am never going to apologise to them,” said the 49-year-old Congress leader.
The Rajya Sabha also saw disruptions and protests over Gandhi’s remarks. Sonal Mansingh raised the issue and said, “Yesterday, in a public meeting a leading personality of the Congress party has described India as not ‘Make in India’ but ‘Rape in India.’ This is very serious.”
BJP MP Saroj Pandey demanded that Gandhi should apologise for his remarks. Rajya Sabha chairman and vice president of India, Venkaiah Naidu, however, cautioned many MPs that they could not take the name of the person who is not a member of the House, before adjourning the House for half an hour.
At Thursday’s election rally in Jharkhand, Gandhi took a swipe at the government over the spate of sexual assault cases in the country. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to say ‘Make in India’ but nowadays wherever you look, it is ‘Rape in India’. In Uttar Pradesh, Modi’s MLA raped a woman, then she met with an accident but Narendra Modi did not utter a word,” he said in reference to the case against former legislator Kuldeep Sengar.
“Narendra Modi says ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. But he never said from whom should the daughters be saved? They should be saved from the BJP’s MLA,” Gandhi added.
A senior Congress leader said Gandhi requested an opportunity to respond to the attack on the floor of the House but the BJP was determined to ensure that his response wasn’t recorded.
Quoting from an earlier meeting with former central bank governor Raghuram Rajan, Gandhi alleged the economy is in tatters. “Raghuram Rajan told me that nobody was talking about the Indian economy in the US and Europe. The only reference to India there comes in context of violence,” he claimed.
In the Lok Sabha, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi and his deputy Arjun Ram Meghwal asked women MPs from the opposition camp to clarify their stand on the comment.
The DMK’s Kanimozhi said the comment that was being cited by ruling party leaders was made outside the House, a reference to previous instances when members have been disallowed from raising questions on comments made outside the House.
She added: “The Prime Minister has always been saying Make in India. We respect that… but what is happening in this country. That is what Rahul Gandhi intended to say. Unfortunately, Make in India is not happening and the women in this country are being raped. This is a concern.”
Irani was having none of this. She said: “I am extremely disheartened that even on issues of crime against women, you couldn’t raise above party lines. I am disgusted.”
When the Lok Sabha reassembled at 12.15pm, the Speaker read out his remarks on the various issues taken up during the session amid slogan shouting by the Congress members seeking justice for the Unnao rape victim.
The Speaker then adjourned the House sine die.
Later in the day, BJP members led by Irani visited the Election Commission’s office to register a complaint against Gandhi for his comment. Irani said Gandhi was politicising rape: “We have said this before that crimes against women should not be politicised. Rahul Gandhi dared to make rapes a political tool. We have requested the Election Commission to take action,” she told reporters.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, addressing a press conference on Friday evening, also hit out at Gandhi, saying his statement was “horrendous” and it is a matter of “shame” that a senior leader of the Congress has forgotten about dignity of women.