MUMBAI: Senior NCP leader and former Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has stoked a controversy by trivialising rape when he said an MNS candidate for the Assembly poll jailed for the offence could have waited for elections to get over before committing the crime.
"MNS has fielded a candidate. Today MNS activists met me and said they would back me (in the elections). When I asked them why, they said their candidate is in jail.
"I asked as to what good act he has done? They told me that a rape case has been registered against him. If he wanted to contest and become an MLA, he should have committed rape after the elections," Patil, not new to controversies, said addressing his supporters at Sangli yesterday.
Sharply reacting to Patil's remark, BJP leader Shaina NC described the NCP leader as a "big joke".
"After 26/11, he made an insensitive comment suggesting 'small incidents do happen in big cities'. Then, after Shakti Mill compound incident (rape of a woman journalist), he said should I give protection to all journalists.
"Now, in election mode, he is trying to be cocky by suggesting that his counterpart in MNS should have raped after the elections. He has absolutely no conscience and no right to be in public life. He should be voted out on October 15 by the people," she said.
Activist and advocate Abha Singh cited Section 107 (abetment of crime) of IPC to seek registration of a case against the former minister.
"Instigation comes under abetment of an offence. An offence should be registered against R R Patil under Section 107 for inciting people to go and rape women," she said.
As his remark triggered an outrage, Patil went into damage control, saying it was made in a sarcastic vein against MNS candidate Sudhakar Khade, who has a criminal background, and tendered apology if anybody felt hurt.
"The candidate had a rape case registered against him in 2007. One more rape case was registered after he filed nomination. Earlier, he had been charged under Arms Act and for molestation," Patil said.
The NCP leader said, "If you hear my comment fully, you will understand in what context it was made. It was a sarcastic criticism of a rival candidate, who has a criminal background."
"There is no question of my insulting women. During my tenure as Home Minister, I initiated several measures for the safety of women and took a tough stand on rape," he said.
Seeking to put an end to the potentially damaging controversy ahead of the October 15 Assembly poll, Patil said, "I do not want the issue to drag on. In case I hurt anybody's sentiments, I tender an apology. I had no intention to hurt anybody with my comments."
Patil, who held the Home portfolio for several years under the Congress-NCP dispensation, had to lose his job for his comments on 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
When he was asked if the brazen terror assault was the result of intelligence failure, Patil said, "It is not like that. In big cities like this, small incidents do happen. It's is not a total failure."