Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan came under mounting pressure on Friday to apologise for his sexist remarks against Bharatiya Janata Party member Rama Devi in the Lok Sabha with Speaker Om Birla being authorised to take action if he fails to do so on the floor of the House.
Cutting across party lines, members in the Lok Sabha condemned the remarks when Rama Devi was officating the proceedings in the lower house on Thursday and demanded exemplary action against him. There was also a demand for Khan's suspension from the House.
Azam's remarks were dubbed as malicious, having double-meaning and a blot on all legislators by the ministers and MPs who spoke after BJP's Sanghmitra Maurya raised the issue during the Zero Hour.
Several members including from the BJP, the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Biju Janata Dal said a strong message should be sent by the House against such conduct.
Outside Parliament, a meeting of floor leaders of all parties chaired by Speaker Birla was held during which it was decided that Khan should apologise or face action.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the Speaker will ask Khan to tender an unconditional apology on the floor of the House.
"The Speaker will ask Azam Khan to apologise over his comments made against Rama Devi without any condition in the House. If he does not do so, the Speaker has been authorised to take action against him," Joshi said.
Sources said the Lok Sabha is likely to pass a resolution authorising the Speaker to take 'exemplary action' against Khan.
Leaders across party lines are of the view that a message should be sent that the House has zero tolerance towards such acts which lower the dignity and honour of women, they added.
Several women MPs have also written to the Speaker demanding stringent action against Khan.
Rama Devi said he should be suspended for the entire five years from the current Lok Sabha.
In a tweet, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said Khan should not only apologise in Parliament but to all women.
"This is a blot on all legislators including men," Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said in the Lok Sabha, as she attacked SP leader Akhilesh Yadav for supporting Khan in the House on Thursday.
It was repugnant that a leader stood in solidarity with a 'lech', she said.
Khan and Akhilesh Yadav were not present in the House.
If Khan had made these comments outside Parliament, then police would have come to the woman's rescue, Irani said and urged political parties to rise above political differences and appealed to the Speaker to take action.
A member cannot abuse the privilege Parliament gives him to make such comments and get away, she said.
Stating that his party is against any kind of misbehaviour against women, Leader of the Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury referred to his party leader Sonia Gandhi being called 'Italian puppet and daughter of Italy' by BJP leaders in the past, remarks which drew strong protest from the members of treasury benches who said the issue should not be politicised.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wondered why there was a 'dilemma' and 'hesitation' in taking a stand on the issue, in an apparent dig at the opposition party which objected to her remarks.
Sitharaman said Khan's comments were utterly condemnable and said the House was looking to the Speaker to take exemplary action.
Chowdhury said the person at the centre of the issue should also be heard, referring to Khan.
He suggested that the matter be sent to privilege or ethics committee. He later agreed with the prevailing view that the Speaker should take a call.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said either Khan should tender an apology or he be suspended from the House.
TMC member Kalyan Banerjee said a person who does not show respect to women does not know Indian culture.
NCP's Supriya Sule said she hangs her head in shame at Khan's offensive language and called for strict punishment.
His behaviour was not tolerable and members should speak in one voice, she said.
Janata Dal-United's Lalan Singh said the Speaker should take strongest action so that such behaviour is not repeated.
DMK's Kanimozhi wondered how women would be treated outside Parliament when they are 'insulted' in such a way inside. Apna Dal's Anupriya Patel said the entire nation is ashamed.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the House should leave the matter to the Speaker.
BJD's B Mahtab said Khan's remarks were 'unpardonable' and deserved exemplary action. "It was one of the darkest days," he added.
Union Minister Arjun Meghwal said Khan's comments had a double-meaning and he has a history of making such remarks outside the House as well.
Actor and Trinamool Congress member Mimi Chakraborty, who is a first time MP, said whatever happened on Thursday was shameful and cannot be part of her learning exercise.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi said he respected the sentiments of the House but took a dig at the government asking about the status of a Group of Ministers, which was constituted following a wave of allegations of sexual harassment against women in the 'Me Too' movement, including against the then Union minister and BJP leader M J Akbar.
Participating in the debate on the triple talaq bill, Khan Thursday referred to the intervention of Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and read out a couplet '... tu idhar-udhar ki baat na kar ... (do not divert from the topic)'.
At this, Rama Devi, who was presiding over the proceedings, asked Khan not to 'look here and there' and address the Chair.
To this, the SP member made sexist remarks at the Chair, triggering acrimonious scenes.
The remarks were expunged from the records.