11:35 GMT30 November 2020
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    In the run up to elections for India’s Madhya Pradesh state legislature, Kamal Nath, a state Congress leader and former state chief, made a 'derogatory' sexual slur toward a female minister. While participating in a public rally, he described her as an “item”, evoking strong protest.

    Rahul Gandhi, a key political leader for India’s main opposition Congress party, snubbed his party’s former State Chief, Kamal Nath, for making a crude and sexist jibe at a female minister in Madhya Pradesh.

    Gandhi termed the remarks directed at State Minister Imarti Devi as “unfortunate”, adding that he did not “appreciate” Nath's language.

    “Kamal Nath ji is from my party but personally, I don't like the type of language that he used...I don't appreciate it, regardless of who he is. It is unfortunate,” Gandhi said on Tuesday.

    ​Nath, while addressing an election meeting in the Dabra legislative assembly constituency, which is going to the polls, compared the candidate of his party with rival Imarti Devi of the State’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

    “Our candidate is not like her... what's her name? (people shout Imarti Devi, who is a State Minister) You know her better and should have warned me earlier... ye kya item hai (what is that item),” said Nath.

    The use of the word "item" as an adjective to describe a woman is considered a sexist remark, and is used in a derogatory sense to describe a woman that the user considers to be sexually attractive.


    Following widespread criticism for his remark, Nath expressed regret stating, “If anyone found my remarks disrespectful, I express my regret.”

    The National Commission for Women sent notice to Nath, and a complaint to the national election body, said Rekha Sharma, the chair of the national watchdog for women.

    ​This is disgraceful for him (Kamal Nath). It shows the character of the person saying it. Instead of saying sorry, he is giving a useless explanation. His party should take strict action against him: Rekha Sharma, Chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) https://t.co/G3Dl285WIK

    ​The Election Commission of India has sought a report from the state election body on the complaint.

    Meanwhile, the national general secretary of BJP, B.L. Santosh, said democracy was in danger by the use of these kinds of misogynistic statements by Congress functionaries.  

    ​Another functionary of the BJP, Amit Malviya, asked Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to stop pretending to be worried about India’s democracy, in response to a statement made by her on Sunday (18 October) that “democracy is in danger”.  

    ​A BJP lawmaker from the Karnataka state, Shobha Karandlaje, said the sexist remark shows the desperation of Congress during the by-elections in Madhya Pradesh.

    ​Twitter users wondered why Nath does not use sexist language to describe his party chief, Sonia Gandhi, or her daughter and Congress General Secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.  

    Nath was unseated as state chief in March, after 22 legislators with allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia, a discontented functionary of Congress, resigned from the state legislature.

    Nath’s party lost its majority and he resigned on 21 March, paving the way for the formation of a BJP government in the Madhya Pradesh state.

    Mid-term polls are set to take place in 28 constituencies for the state legislative assembly, including 22 seats vacated by former Congress members, on 3 November.

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    Tags:
    Election, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Rahul Gandhi, Indian National Congress, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, India
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