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Ms Irani launched a scathing attack on Sonia Gandhi, demanding an apology from her. "Sonia Gandhi sanctioned the humiliation of a woman at the highest constitutional office in the country," she said. An irate Ms Irani also called Mrs Gandhi "anti-Adivasi, anti-Dalit, and anti-woman".
Another protest led by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who has just recovered from Covid, saw her standing with fellow MPs with placards on the Parliament premises protesting the remark. Inside the lower house, Ms Sitharaman called it a "deliberate sexist abuse" and demanded that the Congress President apologise on behalf of the party.
"I demand an apology from the President of Congress party who herself is a woman has allowed her leader to speak like that. Sonia Gandhi should come before the nation and apologise for insulting the President," the finance minister said in the Lok Sabha.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury swiftly clarified saying it was a mere slip of the tongue and the BJP is "making a mountain out of a molehill". He accused the BJP of distracting from crucial discussions on price rise, GST, the Agnipath scheme, unemployment, and other issues. Stressing there's no chance of an apology to the BJP, he said he would personally meet Ms Murmu and apologise to the President "a hundred times" if she says she was hurt by his remark. He ascribed his "slip of the tongue" to the language barrier, claiming he is a Bengali and not proficient in Hindi as it's not his mother tongue.
"Whoever is the President of India, be it Brahmin, or Adivasi, the President is the President for us. Our respect is for the post. Yesterday when we were protesting at Vijay Chowk, reporters asked us where we wanted to go. I told them I want to visit the President's house. Just once, I said "Rashtrapatni"...The reporter repeated it to me and I said I might have said that by mistake and it would be better if they didn't broadcast it. They (BJP) are creating a furore because of this. I made a mistake, just once and in one word," Mr Chowdhury said in a video statement posted on his Twitter account.
Speaking to NDTV, Sonia Gandhi said Mr Chowdhury has already apologised. After the house was adjourned, she crossed the floor of the House and reportedly said to BJP MP Rama Devi: "Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had already apologised. What is my fault?" Sources say Smriti Irani interjected and said, "Madam, may I help you? I took your name." To which, Sonia Gandhi retorted: "Don't talk to me."
Mr Chowdhury is the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and used the remark while talking to the media during his party's protests over a host of issues.
Ms Irani alleged that the Congress has been targeting Ms Murmu "maliciously" ever since the BJP-led NDA named her its presidential candidate, and said she was called a "puppet" and a "symbol of evil" by its leaders.
"The Congressman knew that to address the President of India in this way not only demeans her constitutional post but also the rich tribal legacy that she represents," Smriti Irani said.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 4 pm amid noisy protest by the BJP.
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