New Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde caused an outcry with a gaffe in the Rajya Sabha today, when he admonished Elder Jaya Bachchan for interrupting his reply to the debate on Assam.
It was a classic foot-in-the-mouth moment for Mr Shinde. "Listen carefully sister, my sister, this is a serious matter. This is not a film issue," he said when the Samajwadi Party MP rose to intervene. Ms Bachchan, who is a former Bollywood actor and the wife of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, sank back in her seat looking stricken. There were audible gasps in the House and then loud protests.
A gallant Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley of the BJP immediately objected, saying Ms Bachchan was a respected member and Mr Shinde could not taunt her.
Mr Shinde then apologised saying, "If she is hurt, I apologise; she is like my sister." He later said he knew the entire family well, had great respect for Ms Bachchan and so had spoken thus.
The Home Minister, who is also the new Leader of the Lok Sabha, is known to be extremely affable and soft-spoken.
Jaya Bachchan has been a Rajya Sabha MP for six years.