NEW DELHI/PATNA: Two widely known leaders across the country's political divide--Vinay Katiyar and Sharad Yadav--have whipped up a row with their sexist remarks about women, including Priyanka Gandhi, drawing a fusillade of criticism.
An outraged Congress denounced Katiyar's comments as "insulting Indian womanhood" and demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Katiyar, a BJP Rajya Sabha member and once the venom- spouting face of the Ram temple movement, set off a row when he said Priyanka being a star campaigner for Congress in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls will have no impact on his party's fortunes as it has "more beautiful women star campaigners than her."
"It doesn't matter...there are girls and women who are more beautiful than her (Priyanka) and are also star campaigners. Some of them are artists and heroines...they are more beautiful than her," Katiyar said, adding "I think Smriti Irani is beautiful and also campaigning".
In a sharp and rare riposte, Priyanka, who played a key role in cobbling together the SP-Congress alliance in UP and looks all set to campaign for her party beyond Amethi and Rae Bareli for the first time, said Katiyar's statement exposed the BJP's "mindset towards the better half of the country's population".
Congress, too, mounted a scathing attack on Katiyar, saying it reflects the "petty and insulting culture of BJP that commodifies women" and accused the BJP of insulting India's womanhood for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah should apologise".
"If that's all BJP sees in my colleagues who are each strong, brave and beautiful women that have battled through all sorts of hardships to get where they are, then he makes me laugh even more. Because he exposes the BJP's mindset towards the better half of the population of India!!!," Priyanka Gandhi said in response to Katiyar's remarks.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said BJP has "insulted" India's womanhood and such conduct, behaviour and words prove BJP's mentality. "BJP has insulted India's womanhood. Such conduct, behaviour and words prove BJP's mentality. Time for PM Modi and Amit Shah to apologise," he said.
Senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav also kicked up a row with his remark that "the honour of a vote is greater than that of a daughter". "The importance of the vote has to be told to everyone, everywhere. The honour of the vote is greater than that of a daughter. It a daughter's honour is compromised, the honour of a village, a locality gets sullied. But, when the honour of the vote is compromised...sold...the honour of the entire region, state and the nation gets sullied," he told an event in Patna yesterday.
Under fierce attack, Katiyar later said,"I have huge respect for women...I haven't said anything wrong. I was only replying to a journalist's question. Priyanka is like my niece." Katiyar, while talking to a TV news channel, insisted that Sharad Yadav should apologise for his comments on women, but refused to express regret himself as "I only said beauty does not get votes and what is wrong if someone is beautiful. I am not going to apologise for what I said about beauty."
Yadav, panned many times over his "misogynistic" remarks in the past, was completely unapologetic. "I haven't said anything wrong. Like the way we love, care and respect our daughters, we should also do the same in case of votes so our society becomes good, our country develops and we have a good government".
"Those who are taking it in wrong sense is not a good thing. Vote is the engine of our constitution...it is the driving force....everyone has his own point of view," he added.
In 2015, the former JD(U) chief had said in the Rajya Sabha, "The women of the south are dark but they are… their bodies….” He had also spoken about the exquisite dancing skills of South Indian women.