NEW DELHI/HAJIPUR — A minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet has kicked up a political storm after he made a sexist remark against Congress President Sonia Gandhi, prompting an outraged Opposition to demand an apology from the Prime Minister.
Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Giriraj Singh on Wednesday joked whether Gandhi’s ‘white skin’ was what helped her claim the top job in the Congress Party.
"If Rajiv (Gandhi) had married a Nigerian, things would have been different," he said.
Mostly all political parties condemned Singh’s comment.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said Singh’s comment was derogatory and “in full contempt of working women”.
"This is racist and I strongly condemn it. How dare he make such racist statements? The entire statement shows the low level of public discourse," Karat said.
Giriraj Singh has lost his mental balance, he needs to consult a psychiatrist, says Cong leader Shobha Oza
— India Today (@IndiaToday) April 1, 2015
"In our country, there is no stringent code of conduct which can control such remarks. It is unfortunate. I think it is high time both parliament and the state assembly should consider it," she added.
Misogyny isn’t uncommon in India’s largely male dominated politics. Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav recently created a huge stir in Parliament by describing the physical attributes of women from the south of the country and comparing them with their northern counterparts.
Chief Minister of Goa, Laxmikant Parsekar, reportedly told a group of nurses on hunger strike that agitating in the sun will ruin their complexion and marriage prospects.
Lalu Yadav says Giriraj Singh's comment shameful.Dont forget Lalu had said I will make roads in Bihar as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks
— Rashneek Kher (@Rashneek) April 1, 2015
Now Giriraj SIngh's promotion up the BJP political escalator is imminent.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) April 1, 2015
Predictably, Congress leaders came out strongly protesting the comment. Former minister of state for home R.P.N Singh demanded that Modi publicly apologise for Singh's racist remark.
"I strongly condemn the derogatory remarks used by a Union Minister against Smt. Sonia Gandhi. It is not just derogatory to Sonia Gandhi, but to the all women of this country. I think it has become a habit with BJP ministers to make these kinds of outlandish remarks. It is time for the Prime Minister who keeps saying that these kinds of remarks should not be made, but every week we had a remark made by some MP or some minister in the government. We seek apology from the Prime Minister," he told ANI.
Giriraj Singh deserved to be thrown out by his hair long ago. But Digvijaya 'Tunch Maal' Singh issuing a condemnation is hilarious.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) April 1, 2015
"And, I think, Giriraj Singh has been used to making these kinds of statements. And because he is a minister in the government, the Prime Minister must make a statement," he added.
This isn't the first time that Singh had planted his foot firmly in his mouth. During the Lok Sabha election campaign, IBNLive reported, he said that those who opposed Modi should go to Pakistan while addressing a rally in Deoghar district. Three FIRs were lodged against him at Deogarh, Bokaro and Patna for hate speeches, the report said.
Singh had also asked why all terrorists belonged to one community.
(With inputs from agencies)
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