The BJP on Thursday attacked the Congress over its leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda riding a tractor which women legislators of his party pulled with ropes to protest against the rise in fuel prices, and asked if women in a political organisation be treated as “bonded labourers”.

Union minister and BJP leader Smriti Irani said it was “absolutely shocking” to see the former Haryana chief minister sitting calmly on a tractor while having woman members of his party pulling it physically.

“I understand he wants to protest. I understand he wants to make a political statement but should that be done at the cost of women? This is irrespective of our politics. Can women in political organisations, esp the scene we saw in this protest by the Congress, be treated as bonded labourers. It is shocking no male member of the Congress even intervened to stop that,” Irani said here.

Taking a swipe at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Irani, who is women and child development minister, said her silence also speaks volumes about how the women in her party are reduced to tasks that even men refuse to do.

Noting that Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar expressed his anguish at the protest on the floor of the state assembly, Irani said it was ironical that on the one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for celebrating female potential and enterprise on the International Women’s Day and on the other, Hooda reduced their stature and compelled them to pull a tractor atop which he sat.

This he did for a “family enterprise” called the Congress, she said, noting that the incident had happened on the International Women’s Day on March 8.

Asked if she had any demand, Irani quipped “Should not they (Congress) have been conscientious enough to act on their own”.

Khattar had turned emotional while criticising the protest, saying he could not sleep all night due to the visuals.

“This treatment to women MLAs was worse than bonded labour,” he had said in the state assembly on Tuesday.

Hooda had defended this, saying it was women who were feeling the pinch of the rising prices of cooking gas and other essentials.

However, Khattar said if he had to protest, he should have pulled the tractor.

On this, Hooda said, “The government has turned a blind eye to the pain of women who are sitting with farmers protesting on borders against farm laws. Power connections were cut at the protest site, you cannot see their pain.”

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