Cutting across party lines, members in Lok Sabha on Friday condemned Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan’s sexist remarks to BJP member Rama Devi and demanded exemplary action against him.
Azam’s remarks to Devi when she was in the Chair during a discussion on the triple talaq bill on Thursday were slammed as double-meaning, malicious, utterly condemnable and a blot on all legislators by the ministers and MPs who spoke after BJP’s Sanghmitra Maurya raised the issue during the Zero Hour.
A number of members from various parties, including BJP, Congress, NCP, Trinamool Congress, DMK and BJD, said a strong message should be sent by the House against such conduct.
However, there were also some heated exchanges between Congress and BJP MPs during the proceedings.
“This is a blot on all legislators including men,” Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said and also attacked SP leader Akhilesh Yadav for supporting Khan in the House on Thursday after the row erupted.
It was repugnant that a leader stood in solidarity with a “lech”, she said.
Khan and Akhilesh Yadav were not present in the House.
If Khan had made these comments outside Parliament, then police would have come to the woman’s rescue, Irani said as she urged political parties to rise above political differences and appealed to Speaker Om Birla to take action.
A member cannot abuse the privilege Parliament gives him to make such comments and get away, she said.
After hearing the members for nearly an hour, Speaker Om Birla said he will hold a meeting with leaders of all political parties and take a decision.
Stating his party is against any kind of misbehaviour against women, Leader of the Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury referred to his party leader Sonia Gandhi being called “Italian puppet and daugher of Italy” in the past, remarks which drew strong protest from the members of treasury benches who said the issue should not be politicised.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wondered why there was “dilemma” and “hesitation” in taking a stand on the issue, in an apparent dig at the opposition party which objected to her remarks.
Sitharaman said Khan’s comments were utterly condemnable and said the House was looking to the Speaker to take exemplary action.
Chowdhury said the person at the centre of the issue should also be heard, referring to Khan.
He suggested that the matter be sent to privilege or ethics committee. He later agreed with the prevailing view that the Speaker should take a call.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said either Khan should tender an apology or he should be suspended from the House.
Several other women MPs expressed unhappiness over Azam Khan’s remarks and demanded that Speaker take strict action against him.
Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee said a person who does not show respect to women does not know Indian culture.
NCP’s Supriya Sule said she hangs her head in shame at Khan’s offensive language and called for strict punishment.
His behaviour was not tolerable and members should speak in one voice, she said.
JD(U)’s Lalan Singh said the Speaker should take strongest action so that such behaviour is not repeated.
DMK’s Kanimozhi wondered how women would be treated outside Parliament when they are “insulted” in such a way inside. Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel said the entire nation is ashamed.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the House should leave the matter to the Speaker.
BJD’s B Mahtab said Khan’s remarks were “unpardonable” and deserved exemplary action. “It was one of the darkest days,” he added.
Union Minister Arjun Meghwal said Khan’s comments were double-meaning and he has a history of making such remarks outside the House as well.
Actor and Trinamool Congress member Mimi Chakraborty, who is a first time MP, said whatever happened on Thursday was shameful and cannot be part of her learning exercise.
AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi said he respected the sentiments of the House but took a dig at the government asking about the fate of a Group of Ministers, which was constituted following a wave of allegations of sexual harassment against women in the “Me Too” movement, including against the then Union minister and BJP leader M J Akbar.
Participating in the debate on the triple talaq bill, Khan had Thursday referred to the intervention of Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and read out a couplet “… tu idhar-udhar ki baat na kar …” (do not divert from the topic).
At this, Rama Devi, who was presiding over the proceedings, asked Khan not to “look here and there” and address the Chair.
To this, the SP member made sexist remarks at the Chair, triggering acrimonious scenes.
The remarks were expunged from the records.