Joice George, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) backed former MP from Idukki in Kerala, on Tuesday apologised for passing judgements about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s character after his comments sparked widespread public outrage, The Indian Express reported.

At an election meeting at Irattayar area of Idukki on Monday, George claimed that Gandhi only makes visits to women’s colleges, and suggested that it was not proper for young girls to take martial arts lesson from a bachelor. A video of George’s speech was widely circulated on social media, evoking sharp reactions.

He will go to women’s-only college,” the politician can be heard saying in the video, according to NDTV. “He will teach girls to bend and turn. My dear children, don’t go around bending and turning in front of him. He is unmarried.”

Leaders on stage, including Kerala’s Power Minister MM Mani who is contesting from the Udumbanchola constituency, are seen laughing and enjoying the politician’s comments.

George was referring to Gandhi’s visit to the St Teresa’s College in Kochi last week, where he taught students some moves of the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

The Congress leader often visits schools and colleges to reach out to young voters while campaigning for an election. Earlier this month, a video of Gandhi doing push-ups with students at the St Joseph’s School in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu had also gone viral on social media.

George’s statements irked the Congress, with state party leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala demanding an apology from him for his misogynistic views.

“The former MP’s statement is not only an insult to women but to Kerala’s society as a whole,” Chandy said. “The CPM [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] must withdraw the anti-women statement and tender an apology.”

Chennithala deplored the use of such “coloured language” against a national leader. “The CPM is worried because lakhs of people are attending Rahul Gandhi’s programmes in Kerala,” he alleged.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, denounced George saying this was not what his party stood for. “It’s not our style to criticise Rahul Gandhi at a personal level,” he said. “Politically, we will continue to oppose him where needed. But not in any other way.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), meanwhile, distanced itself from George’s offensive comments. The party said it does not agree with what he said about Gandhi. Such individual criticism, the party said, will only deflect attention from political criticism and such remarks should not be made by anyone.

Amid the backlash, George apologised for his comments on Tuesday. “Yesterday [Monday] while speaking at an election rally in Erattayar, I made certain inappropriate remarks,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “I withdraw those remarks unconditionally. I publicly convey my regret.”