The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttarakhand President Bansidhar Bhagat on Tuesday referred to senior Congress leader Indira Hridayesh as a “budhiya” or an old woman, triggering a political controversy in the state, ANI reported. Hridayesh is also the leader of the Opposition in the state.

Bhagat made the remarks while addressing BJP workers in Nainital, according to the Hindustan Times. Hridayesh had claimed that several BJP MLAs wanted to switch over to the Congress and were in contact with her.

In response, Bhagat said, “Are budhiya tujhse kyun sampark karenge? [why will we contact you old lady?”]. “Doobte jahaz se koi sampark karega? [will anyone contact a sinking ship?”]

Hridayesh said in a video message on Twitter that she was “saddened and hurt” by the language used by Bhagat. “The BJP’s state chief has insulted the power of women,” she said. “The women of this country will never tolerate this.”

The Congress leader added that Bhagat’s remarks reflect his narrow mindedness. “Such indecent language does not look good in politics,” she said. “The women of Uttarakhand will give you [Bhagat] a befitting reply for this insult when the time comes.” She added that the leaders shouting “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” slogans should know how to mind their language.

Bhagat comments also drew sharp criticism from Hridayesh’s colleagues. Congress’ Uttarakhand President Pritam Singh demanded an apology from Bhagat. “His words just show the sort of mentality BJP leaders have towards women,” Singh said. “He should offer an apology immediately for his highly condemnable language.”

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat apologised to Hridayesh on Twitter. “Indira Hridayesh ji, I am very sad today,” he said on Wednesday. “For us, women are highly respectable. I personally apologise to you and the others who have been saddened like me. I will speak to you over the phone and apologise again.”