Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Thursday was forced to apologise to Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan for a disparaging remark that caused an uproar in the Rajya Sabha and saw the BJP attack the minister for the “taunt”.
While replying to a discussion on the violence in Assam, Shinde told Bachchan, who kept interrupting him, that the issue was of major importance and “not a subject of films”.
Shinde paused with a slight smile after the remark, while there were some audible titters from some upper house members. However, Bachchan reacted with anger as did opposition MPs.
“I strongly object to this comment,” an outraged Bachchan said.
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley got up to protest Shinde’s comment.
“This is a house where people, who are achievers in a lot of fields, become members. Jayaji is an achiever in her field, the home minister of India cannot use it as a taunt,” said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.
Jaitley emphasized that it was a matter of pride that Bachchan was a member of the upper house.
He demanded that Shinde should make amends and withdraw his comments so that the proceedings could continue.
Amid uproar from Samajwadi Party and other opposition members, Shinde tried to clarify, saying: “I know her whole family, I respect her a lot. I am also from Mumbai.”
However, the actor-politician refused to be pacified. “I cannot accept this,” she said.
Shinde then said: “I apologise, she is my sister.” He agreed that the remark should be deleted from the records.
The home minister concluded his reply abruptly amid protests by opposition members.
BJP leaders later said the minister had only repeated what he had said on the Assam violence in the Lok Sabha Wednesday.
A minister later sought to play down the faux pas by the minister who has succeeded Pranab Mukherjee as Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha.
“What he (Shinde) was trying to say was that it (solution to Assam riots) was not like a film which will end in three hours,” the minister told IANS.