The Election Commission of India (ECI) asked former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday to explain his allegedly sexist description of state minister Imarti Devi as an “item “. The Commission gave Nath 48 hours to explain the remark, failing which action will be taken against him.
Nath’s remarks was found to be in violation of the model code of conduct in place in the state because of assembly by-elections due on November 3, the ECI said.
“Now, therefore, the Commission gives you an opportunity to explain your stand in making the above said statement within 48 hours of receipt of this notice, failing which the Election Commission of India shall take a decision without further reference to you,” a notice issued by the ECI said.
The move came in the wake of the National Commission for Women (NCW) asking the election watchdog to look into the matter and take action. The NCW also sought an explanation from Nath over the alleged derogatory remark.
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“The NCW has come across several media reports where Shri Kamal Nath, Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly, made offensive and derogatory remarks against a woman minister in a political rally in Dabra,” the Commission said in a statement. “The Commission strongly condemns this irresponsible and disparaging statement made by the leader. The words used in the video are highly defamatory and shows disrespect towards the dignity of a woman.”
Addressing a campaign rally on Sunday in Gwalior’s Dabra town, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Imarti Devi in the by-election, Kamal Nath said the Congress candidate was a “simple person” unlike his opponent who was an “item”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday he disapproved of Nath’s controversial remark.
“Kamal Nath ji is from my party. But one can’t treat women with disrespect. I don’t approve the language used by the senior leader. It is unfortunate,” he said.
“Our women are our pride. They should be protected and I don’t appreciate this type of language…,” he added.
Nath refused to apologise. “It is Rahul ji’s opinion” was his response when reporters asked about Gandhi’s comments on the escalating row.
“Why should I apologise when I did not intend to insult anyone? If anyone felt insulted, I have already expressed regret,” Nath said.