How a Sadhvi stole RaGa’s thunder in parliament

New Delhi: Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti- the newly inducted union minister of state for food processing industries in the Narendra Modi cabinet may be surprised at the worthiness of her comments to remain in the national headlines for two days in a row. 

But what the saffron-clad supposed monk has managed to do is steal the thunder from Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Addressing a public meeting in Delhi on 2 December, the Sadhvi said "Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai" (You have to decide if you want a government peopled by the children of Ram or one full of bastards.) The outrage that followed on both national media and in parliament, kicked up a storm at the national level and made sure that Rahul Gandhi’s plan to stall both Houses of Parliament on the issue of the alleged somersaults made by the Modi government on major election promises got sidelined. 

The Telegraph reports that Rahul Gandhi stood in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on the lawns of the parliament building, surrounded by party MPs and waved a Congress booklet titled “U-Turn Sarkar”- that lists 22 alleged reversals on pre-election promises made by the Modi government. But after a while even Congress party leaders realised that minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s comments were a more powerful issue. Other Opposition members too wanted to raise it, and the Congress had to dump the “U-turn” and grab the protest against the minister instead. 

TOI reports that the opposition parties united in parliament to protests the derogatory remarks made by the Sadhvi and demanded a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. Calling for her immediate resignation, the opposition stalled proceedings in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha for the second consecutive day on Wednesday, 3 December.

As soon as Lok Sabha took up question hour, leader of the Congress- Mallikarjun Kharge said sarcastically that it is a privilege that the Prime Minister is present in the House today.

He said as the Prime Minister is himself present in the House, he was insisting on the resignation of Jyoti from the council of ministers for her controversial remarks.

Soon, Congress members, joined by Trinamool Congress and MPs from other opposition parties, trooped into the well demanding a reply from the PM.

Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India questioned the silence of the PM on the issue and sought criminal proceedings against the minister. "Why is PM afraid of his own Parliament? Parliament does not run on Twitter, " she said.

Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said the PM should apologise for making such a person a minister. Anand Sharma also of the Congress said the statement made by the minister was a cognizable offence and had penal provisions of up to 3 years of imprisonment. The opposition said an FIR should be lodged against the minister for her remarks.

The BJP, however, tried to downplay the issue. It defended its minister and rejected opposition demands. Venakaiah Naidu said that the minister's comment was unacceptable, but she had apologised and hence the issue should be closed.

FirstPost reports that Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti- whose name has become synonymous with ill-timed, unnecessary and hateful speech, is unsurprisingly no real stranger to controversy. But this is the first time that her comments have generated a media storm on a national level.

The outpouring of anger and disgust at her comments may just have surprised her, because after all, she has gotten away with and even been rewarded for similar incidents in the past. The TOI reports that, "Jyoti gained notoriety following her religious discourses after the Ram Temple movement of 1992. Party insiders claim that she has habitually been shooting off her mouth, often making controversial comments during her speeches".

NDTV notes that she was also a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and that the "47-year-old sadhvi or monk is a "katha vachak" or one who delivers religious sermons through storytelling is described as a "social worker,” in her parliament bio-data.

However, ‘social-work’ apart, Jyoti has also recorded a number of run ins with members of her own party, the opposition and even the law.

The Times of India report notes that she has listed a case against the 'non-cognizable offence' category which includes charges related to criminal intimidation, voluntarily causing hurt and adultery. It also makes mention of a dispute with one of her own party workers, which had also led to a police complaint.

"The incident upset the local BJP unit, with the UP BJP even appointing Kanpur regional president Bhalchandra Misra to make an inquiry. However, before Misra could submit his report, she was inducted into the Modi cabinet", the report says.

"Union Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has been throwing her weight around in home state Uttar Pradesh ever since her election to Lok Sabha. She has had run-ins with officials over alleged denial of protocol and her supporters have sent complaints to the PMO and Chief Minister."

But if the Sadhvi had forgotten that the perks of power come with great scrutiny, she may have received a chastening reminder from an outraged opposition, that was only too happy to find a stick to beat the BJP with. 

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