New Delhi: Union Minister Giriraj Singh was today forced to express regret in the Lok Sabha for his racist remarks against Congress President Sonia Gandhi, after vociferous protests on the issue.
“I never meant to offend anyone. But if my comments hurt anyone's sentiments, I regret it,” Singh said when Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked him to respond after the House saw loud protests by Congress members, who termed his remarks as an insult to womanhood and sought his resignation.
Soon after the House met, the Speaker allowed Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia to raise the issue when his party colleagues protested. She said she was also hurt by the remarks and such statements should not be made. Both Gandhi and Giriraj Singh were present in the House.
The minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises was under fire for his racist barb at Gandhi asking whether Congress would have accepted her leadership had she not been white-skinned.
“Had Rajiv Gandhi married a Nigerian woman and if she was not a white-skinned woman, would the Congress have then accepted her (Sonia's) leadership,” he had said recently.
Demanding an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the resignation of Singh, Scindia said such remarks make people hang their heads in shame.
“It is an insult to womanhood ... It is also an insult to the Nigerians too...the Nigerian High Commissioner has also protested,” he said.
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said BJP MPs and ministers have continuously been making unwarranted and irresponsible statements. Such remarks create fissures in the society and hurt harmony, he said.
At one point of time, Kharge got offended when his mike was switched off. “Whenever I speak, the mike is switched off...I have to protest,” he said.
Parliamentary Afairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government and the BJP did not approve of such remarks but there was no need to bring the Prime Minister into the picture.
Kharge said the PM was in the picture as the remarks have been made by a minister which makes it a collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers. “PM is the Leader of the House...,” he said.
As Speaker took up the Question Hour, Congress members trooped into the Well raising slogans. The House was then adjourned for 20 minutes. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi entered the House just as it was adjourned.
The proceedings resumed normally after Singh made the short statement expressing regret after the adjournment.