Sexist slur by Kamal Nath: Could his foot-in-mouth moment affect by-polls?

Team BJP wakes up and finally reacts after weeks of silence on cases of violence against women


Union minister Smriti Irani has spoken up. It just took an extremely crude sexist remark from former union minister, and former chief minister of  Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath for this to happen. Nath had called MP minister Imarti Devi, an “item” a crude slag used to undermine women, enough to enrage anyone who believes in equality of all genders.

An enraged Irani has spoken up and  questioned Sonia Gandhi and her family why they are silent on the issue.

“I can’t find any justification that Kamal Nath ji can give for using such derogatory word against a woman political leader. I can’t understand why Gandhi family chooses to be absolutely silent,” said Irani according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

“I don’t insult anyone, only expose truth”,  Kamal Nath  had stood his ground, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began to react sharply to his address at an assembly bypoll meeting in Gwalior’s Dabra on Sunday. Video clips of  Nath, addressing the crowds, with the local candidate, and other supporters at the assembly bypoll meeting in Dabra town, have since gone viral.

Irani, who has not yet spoken on the multiple rapes and murders, including those of Dalit women, teenagers from Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India, on Monday said, “I don’t think Gandhi family will take action against Kamal Nath for making such a derogatory statement against a lady. Be it Kamal Nath or Digvijaya Singh, these are the people who keep fire burning in Gandhi family’s kitchen.” She is also yet to comment on politicians and authorities shaming rape victims, as Surender Singh, a BJP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA),  from Uttar Pradesh recently commented on ‘rape prevention’.

While that does not excuse Kamal Nath’s sexist comments, it is an illustration that sexist remarks come from male politicians from across party lines. Singh had said it is the parents’ duty to teach their daughters how not to be raped, by equipping them with some kind of moral values. These moral values, or sanskars, when taught to girls as they grow up, apparently have some anti-rape superpower. The non-BJP parties had been outraged at this a week ago.

Nath’s own defence of why he used the crude word ‘item’ when referring to a woman politician has remained feeble, “I said something, it wasn’t to insult anyone… I just didn’t remember the (person’s) name… this list (in his hand) says item number 1, item number 2. Is this an insult? Kamal Nath doesn’t insult anyone, he’ll only expose you with truth,” the Congress leader was quoted by a news agency. He had said, “Suresh Raje ji hamare ummeedvar hain… Yeh uske jaise nah hain… Kya hai uska naam… Main kya uska naam loon?.. Aapko toh mujhe pehle savdhan karna chahiye tha… Yeh kya item hai (Suresh Raje ji is our candidate and is not like her… What’s her name? You know her better and should have warned me earlier… What an item!).”

The former chief minister was addressing a campaign rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Dabra for Congress candidate Suresh Raje. Imarti Devi is contesting on a BJP ticket from Dabra. According to HT she was a part of the group of 22 MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia who had resigned from the Congress, and the state assembly, and followed him to join the BJP in March this year. The move had resulted in a change of government in the state, and unseated Kamal Nath as CM.

Meanwhile, Imrati Devi, BJP’s candidate in the Madhya Pradesh elections, has said Sonia Gandhi should dismiss Nath. The National Commission for Women (NCW) also sought an explanation from the Congress leader on Monday, “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 stated, adding that “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.” According to news reports the NCW has also asked the Election Commission to take necessary action against Nath. As expected, the Congress has maintained silence over Kamal Nath’s sexist gaffe.

The HT reported that Nath’s speech was condemned by several BJP leaders including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and Narendra Singh Tomar who sat on a two-hour silent fast in protest. Chouhan has also written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, stating “that Nath committed a shameless act by insulting a woman member of the Scheduled Caste and then attempted to justify the statement”, he asked that Gandhi “Immediately remove him from all party posts and strongly condemn his statement. If you fail to react, I will be compelled to believe that you support it.” Tomar even called the Congress an “anti-Dalit, anti-women’  party.


Madhya Pradesh will go to vote for by-elections for 28 assembly seats on November 3, the votes will be counted on November 10.


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