The National Commission for Women on Thursday issued a notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his statement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hiding behind a “woman” instead of facing tough questions on Rafale.
The NCW, taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, said Rahul’s comment showed “extreme disrespect towards the dignity and honour of women in general”.
The notice drew a sharp response from the Congress, which asked what action the commission had taken when the Prime Minister made offensive references about women.
“What about the Prime Minister’s remarks — most insulting of Indian womanhood. They (the NCW) should not only act as political tools. The first notice they should have sent was to Shri Narendra Modi. Have they even commented?” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said, asked about the notice.
Rahul had told a rally in Jaipur on Wednesday that “the watchman with a 56-inch chest” had “run away” from the Lok Sabha debate on Rafale, telling “a woman” to protect him. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had defended the deal in Parliament on January 4. Modi skipped the debate.
The NCW, in its notice, described Rahul’s comment as “extremely misogynistic, offensive, unethical” and asked the Congress chief to “provide a satisfactory explanation”. No time frame has been fixed.
Late last night, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had waded into the controversy with a tweet: “Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman’s reply to a debate on a subject relating to Ministry of Defence is a new low in the history of Indian politics.”
Anand Sharma asked on Thursday: “Has Sushma Swaraj the guts to criticise the Prime Minister for his bad language, for lowering the dignity of his own office repeatedly. It is the Prime Minister who has dragged the Indian political discourse to a gutter level.”
While Rahul had got flak from outside the “bhakt circle” also, the NCW notice gave the Congress an opportunity to fight back. Its social media team came out with a short video montage of “misogynistic” remarks made by Modi right from his days as chief minister when he was reported to have referred to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi as “jersey cow”.
Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev tweeted: “Why didn’t the toothless tiger NCW do anything when @narendramodi made derogatory remark in parliament about @INCIndia MP Renuka Chowdhury? Why didn’t it issue notice to him after he commented about a Head of State that ‘despite being a woman’ she is fighting terrorism?’’
Renuka had broken into a guffaw during a debate in parliament last year and Modi had intervened to say that he had heard such laughter for the first time after the Ramayana serial. Minister Kiren Rijiju later shared on Facebook a video showing Surpanakha, though Modi had not named the demoness.
Modi had earlier praised Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for standing up to terrorists “despite being a woman”.