A heated debate in Lok Sabha on the burning of a rape victim in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao snowballed into a massive political row on Friday as the BJP accused two Congress members of aggressively charging at Union Minister Smriti Irani and demanded an apology, leading to the adjournment of the house.
"I had a Congress MP chastise me for he said I spoke aggressively. In the House, some male MPs came towards me rolling up their sleeves, following which a young MP said, "Why did Smriti Irani even speak?" the Union Minister said.
The row had flared earlier in the day as lawmakers of the BJP erupted in protest when Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury took a dig at the party during the Zero Hour, saying "Sita is being burnt" - a reference to the Unnao case - while plans are afoot to build a Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh has become "adharm pradesh" (lawless state), he alleged and also referred to rapes in Malda and Hyderabad.
A few other members also spoke on the issues of sexual violence against women, rape and the early morning Hyderabad encounter before Ms Irani, an MP from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, launched a blistering counter attack on the opposition, saying the Unnao incident was being "communalised and politicised".
She also attacked the Trinamool Congress, whose member Saugata Roy had spoken before her for not referring to a similar case in Malda in West Bengal.
"Yes, setting afire a woman is condemnable, a heinous crime. Yes, the rape and killing of a woman is inhuman, but do not politicise the issue. No one has ever communalised the issue in this House," she said.
She also alleged that the during "West Bengal panchayat election, rape was used as political weapon" and added that the Unnao incident was "inhuman" and a "brutal crime" whose perpetrators should be awarded death penalty.
As she continued with her attack on the opposition, T N Prathapan and Dean Kuriakose of the Congress left their seats and entered the aisle near the Well.
They were heard shouting as they charged towards the treasury benches. Mr Prathapan was seen rolling up his sleeve and both members were pulled back by their colleagues.
An angry Ms Irani told the Congress members not to shout at her.
An uproar broke in the House and Union minister Prakash Javadekar sought an apology from Congress members saying treasury benches condemn their act.
Pointing to Ms Irani, Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress said she was the one who made political comments and triggered the row.
Soon after this, Speaker Om Birla said it was not proper to make political comments and to come to the Well of the House to intimidate anyone.
Later, when the House met again after the lunch break, the government sought an apology from the two Congress members, who were not present, for their "threatening position" towards Ms Irani.
"This is the most condemnable behaviour. They came in threatening position when she was speaking. She is a lady member of the house. It is most uncalled for and they should apologise," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said.
When the House met again, members from other parties, including BJD's Anubhav Mohanty and AAP's Bhagwant Mann, joined BJP leaders in condemning the two Congress MPs and sought strict against them.
Mr Joshi said the two members had deliberately not come back to the House and demanded that they either apologise or be suspended.
Mr Prathapan was one of the two Congress members who were recently named by the Speaker and not allowed to attend the House for a day for misbehaving with marshals.
Mr Chowdhury rose to speak but Meenakshi Lekhi, who was in the Chair, expressed her unhappiness at the absence of the two members and suspended the proceedings for the day. The House will now meet on Monday.
Speaking to reporters later, Ms Irani expressed shock at the behaviour of the two Congress members and asked if it was her fault that she as a woman member of the BJP spoke in the House.
"I have to see what more punishment the opposition gives to me in the House on Monday after I spoke in the interest of women," she said.
(With inputs from agencies)