The National Commission for Women on Monday sought an explanation from former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath over his comment referring to a woman leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party as an “item”, PTI reported.
The women’s body has also forwarded the matter to the Election Commission for necessary action. “The Commission strongly condemns this irresponsible and disparaging statement made by the leader,” it said in a statement. “The words used in the video are highly defamatory and shows disrespect towards the dignity of a woman.”
On Sunday, BJP had lodged a complaint with the Election Commission after the senior Congress leader’s controversial statement. The Congress defended Nath by saying that he did not name the saffron party leader.
“Ye unke jaise nahi hai… kya hai uska naam? [He is not like her, what is her name?],” Nath asked the crowd while campaigning for party candidate Suresh Raje in Dabra for the upcoming Assembly bye-polls. The crowd responded with BJP candidate Imarti Devi’s name. “You know her better than I do, you people should have warned me beforehand… ye kya item hai… kya item hai,” said Nath.
The Dabra Assembly seat is reserved for the Scheduled Caste community. Bye-polls for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held on November 3. The results will be declared on November 10.
Imarti Devi was one of the 22 MLAs who resigned in March, toppling the Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. She eventually joined the BJP and was given the Cabinet minister for Women and Child Development.
The BJP called Nath’s remark an insult to women as well as the SC community. A party delegation met Election Commission officials in Bhopal to complain against Nath for “insulting women and Dalits”.
Imarti Devi chastised Nath for his comments. “What is my fault if I was born in a poor family?” she asked, according to ANI. “What is my fault if I belong to Dalits? I want to appeal to Sonia Gandhi, who is also a mother, to not keep such people in her party. If such words will be used for women then how can any woman move forward?”
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted that the Congress leadership has revealed its “feudal mindset” with such comments. “Imarti Devi has her roots in Gwalior and Chambal and belongs to a Scheduled Caste,” he said at a gathering in Gwalior on Sunday, according to The Indian Express. “She has worked hard and risen from being a labourer to an MLA and then a minister. Who gave you the right to insult a person coming from a humble background?”
Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja, on the other hand, defended Nath and said he did not take Imarti Devi’s name. “He said ‘kya item hai ye’ and did not take Imarti Devi’s name,” Saluja told The Indian Express. “It is the BJP who is adding Imarti Devi’s name and insulting her.”