Days after his controversial comments against Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav on Wednesday expressed regret and said he respected her and had defended her earlier.
"I regret (the controversy). I respect her," he said in Rajya Sabha, after Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said a ‘very improper impression’ had been created in the media on Yadav's remarks during a discussion in the House two days ago.
Jaitley urged Yadav to clarify his remarks and put the controversy to rest.
After expressing regret and saying he respected Irani, the JD-U chief also said he had been the first person to defend Irani when the controversy over her degrees had erupted.
Yadav said he holds two women ministers in the BJP-led government -- Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Irani, in high esteem.
"I consider Sitharaman as the best minister and competent," he said, adding when the controversy over Irani's degree broke, he had defended her saying he himself was ‘an engineer of political science but had never studied it’.
"I was the first person to defend her then," he said. A major controversy had broken out late last week after Yadav had commented on the complexion of women from a particular part of the country.
When the issue was raised in the House by Irani, Dravida Munetra Kazhagam member Kanimozhi and some others on Monday, Yadav had remained defiant and unapologetic and had reacted sharply against the HRD minister saying ‘who are you’.