Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, facing BJP demands for an apology for calling President Droupadi Murmu “Rashtrapatni”, said today he would apologise to the President but not to anyone else.
“Rashtrapatni slipped out, that was my mistake. I am Bengali, not a Hindi-speaking person, so it slipped out. I never intended any insult to the country’s highest post, not in my wildest dreams can I think of doing so,” Adhir Chowdhury told NDTV.
“I have said not once but 100 times that I made a mistake. What can I do? One can make a mistake. I am a Bengali, Hindi is not my mother tongue. I am not used to Hindi. If despite this our President is offended, then I will meet her and talk to her and explain to her. I will not disrespect anyone on this high post,” said the Congress MP.
“I can’t speak Hindi, doesn’t mean that I will deliberately insult someone or undermine them.”
As the BJP demanded an apology not just from him but from his party boss Sonia Gandhi, Mr Chowdhury said: “If I have done wrong, I should be hanged. If I have made the mistake or done anything wrong, then why should anyone else be hanged for it? Why drag Madam (Sonia Gandhi) into it?”
Earlier he had put out a video in his defence, accusing the ruling BJP of making too much out of a slip.
“India’s President, whoever it is, a Brahmin or tribal – a Rashtrapati is a Rashtrapati. It is a post of great honour and prestige. Yesterday, when reporters asked me during a protest where we are headed, I said – We are going to the Rashtrapati’s house, to meet with the Rashtrapati. Suddenly, once, Rashtrapatni slipped out. That is because in the past few days, there has been so much discussion over our new President. Just one time, only once, it came out. By default,” Mr Chowdhury said.
The Congress MP said after making the comment, he requested the media not to use it, but it played out anyway.
“Now there is bawaal (ruckus). Over a slip – one word. It is very surprising. The BJP has nothing to say against us, so they find some masala. They are blowing up the issue out of proportion. They are making mountain out of molehill,” Mr Chowdhury said.
The BJP has demanded an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, accusing her of “sanctioning” such remarks by her party leader.
Asked whether Mr Chowdhury would apologise, Sonia Gandhi told NDTV: “He has already apologized.”
The ruling party protested in both houses of parliament, and the disruptions led to repeated adjournments.
In Lok Sabha, Union Minister Smriti Irani said the Congress should apologise in Parliament, and on the streets of India, to every citizen of India.
“Sonia Gandhi appointed the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha a man who calls Droupadi Murmu ji ‘Rashtrapatni’…Under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, Congressmen continue to demean the women in constitutional posts. Congress party for demeaning the first tribal President of our country needs to apologise in Parliament, on the streets of India and the apology is not only due to the President of India but to every citizen of India who is duly represented by Droupadi Murmu ji in office,” Smriti Irani said as BJP leaders held up placards and chanted slogans.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Rajya Sabha: “This was a deliberate, sexist insult to the President of India.”