NEW DELHI: Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has stoked a controversy by allegedly making an inflammatory speech and using an expletive in an election rally here, drawing severe flak from opposition which accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of pursuing divisive politics and demanded that she be sacked.
The remarks left the Narendra Modi government embarrassed as it faced the opposition's ire in Parliament following which Jyoti expressed "deep regret" over her actions and said she did not intend to hurt anyone's feelings.
The issue rocked both the Houses as agitated opposition MPs protested the remarks and demanded an apology from Jyoti, who is Minister of state for food processing industries and had joined the Narendra Modi Ministry early last month.
"The Prime Minister should give an explanation," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said the minister's remarks were against the secular ethos espoused by the Constitution and do not behold a person occupying a constitutional post.
The BJP should sack her, she said.
WHAT THE MINISTER SAID
"People of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (followers of Ram) or a government of those who are illegitimate."
Mayawati and Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Sitaram Yechury demanded that a First Investigation Report (FIR) be filed against Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
The Congress alleged that Jyoti had insulted the people of Delhi and she should issue an apology while the Aam Aadmi Party said it was the BJP's real face.
"The divisive thinking and divisive politics of the BJP has been exposed," Congress leader Ambika Soni said.
Niranjan was initially defiant saying she was only referring to the "anti-nationals" in her speech on Monday.
"I was referring to the anti-nationals, those who compromise with its borders, its integrity. What else do you call people who loot the nation...? What should we call them?
Why is it being objected to," she said when questioned on the use of expletives.
Manish Sisodia of Aam Aadmi Party said, "This is the real character of the BJP. Their language shows what kind of work they are doing at the Centre and what kind of work they will do for Delhi," said
Delhi Congress leader Mukesh Sharma said, "There can be nothing worse than what she said. She must apologise to the people of Delhi."
A slip-of the tongue?
The BJP said the issue should not be stretched after the Minister has tendered an apology. It also hit out at Congress, saying several of its leaders had made objectionable remarks in the past.
"But have they ever been asked to resign. When did Congress sack them from the party. And they are called experienced leaders while Sadhvi Niranjan has become MP for the first time," UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai said.
Jyoti has been elected from Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
Party spokesman Sambit Patra said it was a "slip of tongue" and the issue should not be politicised.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said those in the government and the opposition should use dignified language and in the past UPA ministers too had crossed the line many times.
Jyoti had earlier defended her remarks saying that all the people in the country are "offsprings of Ram".
"Those who have sold the country, made it bankrupt, people will not voter for such people. Taking Ram's name, talking about Ram, is it communalism?
"Muslims offer namaz in mosques, we do no object. Christians pray in churches, we do not object. Then talking about Ram should not be termed as communal. And those who call me communal, I would say what could be more communal than this."
"Do you want a government of people who believe in Ram, a government that believes in people. And i would like to say one more thing, be it Hindu or a Christian in the country, he is an offspring of Ram. And those who refuse to believe this, will never believe in this country also," she said.