MUMBAI: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came under heavy fire across Maharashtra on Wednesday after its Mumbai MLA Ram Kadam publicly threatened to "abduct" women and bring them to their spurned suitors for marriage.
Cutting across party lines, political leaders, women's groups and social activists slammed the BJP demanding an unconditional apology, Kadam's resignation from the Assembly and his arrest.
Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, a BJP ally, led the charge.
"Not only should strict action be taken against him, he should not be given a ticket by any party to contest future elections. He is a person of a low character and mentality," Thackeray told the media.
The BJP legislator's remarks, made after a Gokulashtami function on Monday, sparked an uproar in Maharashtra, drawing all-round condemnation.
Representing the BJP in Ghatkopar, north-east Mumbai, Kadam declared that he would abduct girls and bring them to their rejected suitors and provided his phone number as a 'helpline'.
"If you have proposed to a girl and she has rejected you, I will help you 100 percent. Come to me with your parents and say that they approve her. Then, I will catch her and bring her to you," Kadam boasted before the gathering.
After the video of the event went viral on Tuesday evening, a cornered Kadam claimed he was quoted out of context and blamed the media for blowing it out of proportion. He also said that he was joking.
"I had no intentions to hurt anybody's sentiments. But if I have done so, I regret it. Certain opponents are behind this misunderstanding," Kadam said in a Tuesday night tweet.
The issue continued to snowball with a group of women activists 'gheraoing' Education Minister Vinod Tawde and the NCP staging a noisy protest at Ghatkopar police station demanding Kadam's arrest.
The Congress, NCP, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Samajwadi Party and others organised protests.
A Pune girl, Minakshi G. Patil, hurled an open challenge on social media to Kadam, daring him to "touch" her if he had the guts.
"I am throwing the gauntlet, accept it. Let's settle this in person. I will come to Mumbai... Lay a finger on me and leave the rest to me. This is shameful and cheap, such statements have no place in Chhatrapati Shivaji's Maharashtra," she said.
Various forms of protests were witnessed in Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Nashik, Pune, Solapur, Osmanabad and other places.
State Congress President Ashok Chavan asked: "Has the BJP made him a legislator to kidnap women?"
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said "the BJP's 'Ravana' face has emerged. He is talking about kidnapping women. So henceforth he should be called 'Ravana Kadam'."
Samajwadi President Abu Asim Azmi said the BJP MLA's speech was a clear indicator that the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' campaign was a sham.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil warned that the opposition would paralyse the next Legislative Assembly session.
Aam Aadmi Party's Preeti Sharma-Menon asked BJP's male members if it was okay if their daughters were abducted by Kadam. Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam asked all women in the country not to vote for the BJP.
Though the BJP has not officially commented, the state leadership sought a copy of the full video of the Monday function and an explanation from the MLA.