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Adhir controversy has doused Cong’s GST, inflation fire

The BJP wants Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to apologize and things may escalate when parliament meets on Monday.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Congress since the commencement of the Monsoon Session of parliament has kept up the pressure on the ruling BJP on the issues of GST, inflation and unemployment. Parliament could not function for more than one week. It was when Congress MPs were detained for protesting over the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s summons by the ED that the BJP managed to pass some bills. However, on Thursday the Adhir Ranjan controversy gave some fresh ammo to the BJP.

The Central government and the Opposition were in confrontation mode in Parliament which led to the suspension of opposition MPs from both Houses. 23 MPs from the Upper House and 4 from the Lok Sabha were suspended for creating a ruckus over GST and other issues. The government has now agreed for a discussion on inflation next week.

Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, Piyush Goyal, said, “We are ready for a discussion but despite that the opposition members are repeatedly disrupting the House proceedings. We have been saying that we are hopeful that as soon as the Finance Minister comes, the discussion on price rise will take place.”

But the brownie points the Congress scored were neutralized by Adhir’s derogatory remark about the President. Adhir has now apologised but the controversy refuses to die down since the BJP has upped the ante. “I am writing to express my regret for having mistakenly used an incorrect word to describe the position you hold. I assure you that it was a slip of the tongue. I apologize and request you to accept the same,” Adhir said in his apology.

The BJP wants Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to apologize and things may escalate when parliament meets on Monday.

Congress floor leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is not new to creating controversies and keeping his party at the receiving end both in and outside parliament. The remark of ‘Rashtrapatni’ for the President is the latest one which has rocked parliament and even dragged Sonia Gandhi into the controversy.

His statement has created a problem for the party even as it was cornering the government on GST and inflation. The ruling BJP has clutched at Adhir’s remark and has countered the Congress with full force. It has demanded an apology from Sonia Gandhi, while Gandhi has maintained that Adhir has apologised and her name is being unnecessarily dragged into the issue.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi maintained that Adhir has not issued an unconditional apology and Sonia Gandhi should apologise. The BJP is trying to make it a tribal issue and corner the Congress while the Congress is saying that the BJP is diverting people from the real issues. Party leader KC Venugopal said, “the BJP is running away from debate on GST, inflation and unemployment.”

However there are demands within the Congress that Adhir should be removed citing his poor command over language and often walking into the BJP trap despite being a senior MP of the party and former Union Minister.

Earlier also during abrogation of Article 370 his statements caused major embarrassment when he questioned whether the issue of J&K is an internal matter (of India) when he said, “You say it is an internal matter but the UN has been monitoring the situation since 1948. Then there is the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. Whether this is a bilateral matter or an internal matter.”

Sometime back he called the Prime Minister and the Home Minister migrants on the issue of the NRC and has also used some unparliamentary words while replying on the motion of thanks on the President’s address. He had also attacked some leaders of the party’s G-23 which has also erupted into a controversy but the latest one has created problems for the party. On Thursday when Sonia Gandhi walked over to fellow parliamentarian Rama Devi in the House another controversy broke out and now both the parties are at loggerheads on the issue.

On Friday Home MInister Amit Shah and Union Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani met President Murmu. While Irani was most aggressive in the matter, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too, led the charge on Sonia Gandhi. Sitharaman on Thursday demanded an apology from Gandhi for her party leader Adhir Ranjan’s sexist comment against President Droupadi Murmu.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha Sitharaman said: “Objectionable statement was made by the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha regarding ‘Rashtrapati’ by using a sexist insult by calling her ‘Rashtrapatni’, as common understanding is that ‘Rashtrapati’ is gender neutral representing ‘leader of the country’ and therefore I think it is not a slip of the tongue but a deliberate sexist insult against the President.”

Congress is struggling to find a way out. In the last two weeks it has cornered the government on the enhancement of GST on some daily items but now the BJP has turned the tables by using the issue of tribal pride. Considering that there are elections in tribal populated states in the next two years, the Congress has to struggle to get its act together.