Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday disapproved of party colleague Kamal Nath’s remarks against BJP leader Imarti Devi, saying he did not appreciate the use of such language and that it was “unfortunate”.
Nath, however, stuck to his guns and, in fact, said Gandhi’s remarks were “his views”.
On Sunday, while campaigning for the Congress candidate in Dabra, one of the 28 Assembly seats in the state where bypolls will be held on November 3, Nath had referred to Devi, who is a Cabinet minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, as an “item”.
Talking to reporters in his Lok Sabha constituency of Wayanad in Kerala, Gandhi said, “Kamal Nath ji is from my party. But I don’t personally like the type of language that (he) has used. I don’t appreciate (it). I think it is unfortunate. But as a general statement, our treatment of women… at all levels leaves a lot to be improved… whether it is in law and order, whether it is in just basic respect, whether it is in how much space they are accorded in business, in government, in other areas… I don’t appreciate this type of language regardless of who is using it.”
Asked about BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s reported remarks that the Congress does not respect women, Gandhi said, “I have just made a statement here against one of our leaders. I don’t think Mr Scindia or anybody else would make that type of statement about his leadership. And I believe Kamal Nathji has already said his statement is unfortunate.”
Asked about Gandhi’s comments, Nath told reporters in Bhopal, “Ab wo Rahulji ki rai hai (That’s his view). Aur unko jo samjhaya gaya ki kis sandarbh mein maine yeh kaha tha… I have already made it clear in what context I said that. There is nothing more to be said.”
On whether he would tender an apology, the former CM and Madhya Pradesh Congress chief said, “Main kyun maafi magoonga (Why should I apologise)? I have said that my intention was not to insult anyone. If somebody feels insulted…I express my regret. That is what I said yesterday”.
Devi, one of the 22 MLAs in the Jyotiraditya Scindia camp who resigned in March, bringing down the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, told The Indian Express on Tuesday that Nath had ended up insulting “all the women of Madhya Pradesh and India”.
Urging Congress president Sonia Gandhi to act against Nath, she said, “I want to ask Sonia Gandhi ji, she is a woman and a mother, her daughter is also coming into politics. If someone uses such words for her daughter, will she like it? ‘Kya item hai’ is the language used by loafers when they see a woman or girl passing by. If this is the language used by senior leaders, no woman will dare step out of the house.”
Devi, 45, is a third-time MLA from Dabra, a seat reserved for SC candidates. In the last Assembly elections of 2018, she won with a record 57,446 votes, defeating BJP candidate Kaptan Singh.
She said that in her 10 years in the Congress, no one had ever used “such language” for her. “Also, while I was Congress MLA, neither leaders nor workers of the BJP ever used such words for me,” she said.
Referring to Congress leader Ajay Singh’s recent speech in which, while referring to Devi, he said, ”Imarti ko jalebi banaya jaye“, she said, “They are making fun of the name given to me by my parents. Is it my fault that my name is Imarti?”
When the Nath-led Congress government came to power in 2018, Imarti Devi, who dropped out after Class 12, was made Cabinet minister for Women and Child Development. She found herself at the receiving end of Internet memes after last year’s Republic Day function in Gwalior, where she failed to read her speech and had to ask the Shivpuri collector for help.
During her tenure as minister in the Congress government, she tried to introduce eggs in anganwadis as part of the midday meals, a move that the opposition BJP vehemently opposed.
After joining the BJP, she retained her Women and Child Development portfolio and stuck to her plan of promoting eggs in anganwadis, landing the party in a spot, until Chief Minister Chouhan finally turned down the proposal.
She was recently caught on camera saying the BJP can get any number of seats in the by-polls and that some of these seats “will be arranged by the collectors themselves”, forcing the BJP to say she had been “misunderstood”.
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