New Bharatiya Janata Party entrant Naresh Agarwal on Tuesday apologised for his comments on Jaya Bachchan, but that did little to quell the outrage with Union minister Harsimrat Kumar Badal and BJP MP Rupa Ganguly amongst others taking up feminist cudgels on the actor-politician’s behalf.
The Rajya Sabha MP, who lost out to Bachchan in the race for re-nomination to the upper house and on Monday quit the Samajwadi Party to join the BJP, had said at a press conference that the SP denied him the RS ticket and gave it to somebody who used to dance and act in films.
“My intention was not to hurt anybody’s sentiments. I regret if my comment has hurt somebody’s feelings and withdraw my words,” he said on Tuesday.
He also claimed that the media had twisted his comments.
However, his explanation left several of his politician colleagues unimpressed.
Union Food Processing Minister Badal said the comments were not just sad but also reflected a certain mindset.
“I want to say that it shows the mindset and the upbringing (of a person). If there would have been an actor in place of Jayaji, then such words would never have been used. Actors also dance as much as the actress in Hindi movies but for men, it is okay,” the Shiromani Akali Dal MP told reporters outside Parliament.
BJP MP Ganguly, a well known actor and singer, echoed the sentiment.
“Whatever happened was wrong. Women folk and artists should be respected and why only women artists, all women who are working should be respected,” she said.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav also spoke out on the need to respect women and said he condemned the BJP and his former party colleague for the derogatory statement against Bachchan.
“This is an insult to every Indian woman and the film industry. If the BJP really respects women, then it should immediately take action against him. The women’s commission should also look into it,” Yadav said on Twitter.
Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar added that the BJP must think whether it should welcome such a person to join its party.
“All the people in the country respect Bachchan and take pride (in her acting skills)… she has been a parliamentarian with him for so many years. Just for not getting ticket, you use such a language?” Babbar asked.
“The BJP must think whether the party should welcome such a person. Should the prime minister not take note of it when his party’s cabinet ministers Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani have condemned the comments?” he added.
Swaraj, the external affairs minister, had said on Monday that Agarwal was welcome in the BJP but his comments on Bachchan were “improper and unacceptable”.
Her colleague, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani also appeared to be critical of Agrawal’s remarks, saying, “We stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics when a woman’s honour is challenged.”
She did not, however, directly mention Agrawal.
Agarwal, who was in the Congress earlier, is not new to controversy. Last year, the BJP was up in arms over his remarks in the Upper House mocking Hindu gods.