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.
#WATCH 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: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the former Madhya Pradesh CM's "item" remark pic.twitter.com/VT149EjHu0— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2020
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
— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2020
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.
Smt Sonia Gandhi , @INCIndia President says Democracy is in danger . We agree fully . Yesterday was a day when her party’s ex CM of MP Sri Kamalnath mentions Smt Imarati Devi , @BJP4MP candidate , a Dalit woman as ‘item’ in his speech .— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) October 19, 2020
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”.
Sonia Gandhi should stop pretending to worry about India’s democracy. It has done well to keep the likes of Kamalnath, the man with blood on his hand for the 1984 Sikh genocide, who called Imrati Devi, a Dalit and a former minister ‘item’, out of power.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) October 19, 2020
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.
CONgress is a disgrace to the nation & their desperation is clearly visible!— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) October 18, 2020
Referring a dalit women candidate 'an item' is the lowest that age old dynasty party can stoop to.
Btw why there is no outrage frm fake crusaders of feminism on this demeaning statement frm #Kamalnath. pic.twitter.com/xGbm2S8edh
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.
According to Kamalnath using the word Item is not wrong— Sanatani Thakur (@SanggitaT) October 19, 2020
So Mr. Kamalnath use that word for sonia Gandhi let's see if it will be right or wrong for you.
After the extremely shameful "kya item hai" jibe directed at her by Senior Congress leader Kamalnath, Imarti Devi pleads with folded hands & begs Sonia Gandhi for justice. Will the Congress President respond or is 'महिला सशक्तिकरण' only a phrase to be used in their tweets?? SHAME https://t.co/BIu0w6hPAw pic.twitter.com/tpQGFxWA5C— Priti Gandhi - प्रीति गांधी (@MrsGandhi) October 18, 2020
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.