Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Madhya Pradesh, led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, on Monday held a protest against Kamal Nath, while the National Commission for Women sought an explanation from the Congress leader for his 'item' jibe against state minister Imarti Devi.
Chouhan also wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, asking her to condemn Nath's remarks and remove the former chief minister from all party posts.
Nath, who heads the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, also came in for flak from Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, who asked Dalits to 'teach the Congress a lesson' over the remark.
Imarti Devi, the state's women and child development minister, who quit the Congress to join BJP, is a Dalit leader.
'Will Sonia Gandhi tolerate if such a remark is made against her daughter?' Imarti Devi said, attacking Kamal Nath.
Addressing a rally at Mandhata in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh on Monday, Kamal Nath said, "Both Shivraj ji and BJP are finding false issues. I have never disrespected anyone. As they don't have any issues to speak on, that is why sometimes they sit on silent fast and sometimes say Kamal Nath drinks Coca-Cola. This is their condition."
At a bypoll campaign meeting in Dabra (SC) Assembly constituency in Gwalior district on Sunday, Kamal Nath had compared the qualities of the Congress candidate Suresh Raje and rival candidate Imarti Devi from the BJP.
He had said, "Suresh Raje is a simple man. He is not like the person. What is the name of the person? As the crowd shouted Imarti Devi's name, Kamal Nath called her an 'item', saying, "Why should I name her? You know her better than I do. You should have warned me. Ye kya item hai..."
An 'item' refers to an object or inventory, but in Indian context, it is also used as a slang to refer to a sexy or sensual girl.
Likewise, an 'item song' is a song in a Bollywood movie where sexy women dance to catchy tunes.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) said it has also approached the Election Commission for necessary action over Kamal Nath's remarks.
'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,' the NCW said in a statement.
'At a time when we want more women to enter politics, such disrespectful remarks against a woman leader, that too from a person holding such a responsible position is very unfortunate,' it noted.
Union minister Smriti Irani said the Congress will not take any action against Kamal Nath for his derogatory remark against Imarti Devi.
Nath's media coordinator said the controversy over the remarks was aimed at BJP's attempts to gain advantage for the assembly bypolls.
Chouhan, BJP MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and other party leaders sat on a two-hour silent fast on Monday to protest against Kamal Nath's remarks.
Tomar said Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should apologise to Imarti Devi.
Imarti Devi and 21 other MLAs close to Scindia resigned from the Congress and the Assembly and joined the BJP in March this year, precipitating the collapse of the Kamal Nath-led government.
Bypolls for 28 Assembly seats in the state will be held on November 3.