28 December, Guwahati
The controversy stoked by a former Congress minister by making sexist remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union minister Smriti Irani erupted into a full-blown political storm in Assam Monday.
While the Congress distanced itself from the controversial remarks, the BJP staged protests against the former minister, Nilamani Sen Deka, in different parts of the state with the protest in Guwahati turning into a pitched battle between BJP workers and Congress supporters, leaving several injured.
The state BJP leadership also mooted taking legal action against Deka.
Condemning the remarks by Deka, Chief Minister Gogoi said the statement was despicable and unwarranted.
In a statement here, Gogoi said, I disapprove such comment which is not the culture of Congress.
He further said, I am happy Nilamani Sen Deka understands his fault and tenders an unconditional apology.
Deka had stated at a Congress rally in Nalbari yesterday that some quarters term Union minister Smriti Irani as second wife of Modi. Ms Irani today visited Nalbari, as per a previous schedule, and addressed BJP workers rally.
Deka later yesterday had withdrawn the remark.
State Congress president Anjan Dutta too termed Dekas remarks as made in his personal capacity and did not reflect the partys view.
He said the party had set in motion process for show-causing Deka for the remarks, but since Deka later withdrew it, disciplinary action was not initiated.
Meanwhile, the BJP continued protesting the remarks and burnt effigies of the former minister at different locations in the state.
A section of party workers staged a demonstration in front of Dekas Guwahati residence and later allegedly marched to nearby Rajiv Bhawan, the Congress headquarter, to gherao the party office.
As the BJP workers approached the Rajiv Bhawan, a clash with Congress supporters ensued and turned into a pitched battle, with both sides hurling stones, empty bottles and other articles on each other.
Police had to lob tear gas shells to control the clash, in which about 20 people were injured. City Police Commissioner Mukesh Agarwal visited the site later to ensure that there was no further flare-up.
About 15 people have been arrested for the incident so far.
State BJP president and Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the party was exploring filing a police complaint against Deka for the purported sexist remarks.
He also accused the Congress leaders and workers in Rajiv Bhawan of inciting the clash with BJP workers in a planned manner.
A large number of Congress workers were present in Rajiv Bhawan at the time of the clash since the partys Foundation Day celebration was in progress.