Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav on Monday defended embattled party leader Azam Khan, who has been heavily criticised for purportedly making sexist remarks about Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaya Prada at an election rally the day before, News18 reported.

At the rally in Rampur, where he is pitted against Prada, Khan reportedly said that the colour of “the current BJP candidate’s” underwear is khaki. However, Yadav claimed Khan was not talking about the BJP leader. “He was talking about someone else,” he said. “We are Samajwadis, we never use foul language for women.” The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said the media “has goofed up in this matter and is showing something else”, Zee News reported.

Jaya Prada, who is a former leader of the Samajwadi Party and parliamentarian from Rampur, joined the BJP on March 26. She was expelled from the party in 2010 for siding with former leader Amar Singh, who had also been removed. The year before, she had accused Khan of circulating morphed images of her.

A first information report has been filed against the Samajwadi Party leader and the National Commission for Women has also sent him a show-cause notice. He has been criticised by leaders from the BJP, the Janata Dal (United) and the Congress, with Prada saying that he should be disqualified from the election.

Late on Monday, the Election Commission barred Khan from campaigning for 72 hours.

This is not the first time Samajwadi Party leaders have been criticised for making sexist and misogynistic comments. In 2017, the party’s leader Abu Azmi had made light of sexual misconduct cases in Bengaluru on new year’s eve, blaming women for wearing “short clothes”. He had also compared women with sugar, which he had said would always attract ants.

In 2015, the party’s leader Shiv Charan Prajapati had also blamed women for rapes. Infamously, the year before, the party’s former leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had questioned the need for death penalty in rape cases, saying “boys will be boys…they commit mistakes”. The party has also doggedly opposed the women’s reservation bill, which allows for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies.

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