Sharad Yadav, Smriti Irani in war of words over sexist comment

The controversy over the sexist remarks of JD-U leader Sharad Yadav refused to die down after Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani…

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HRD Minister Smriti Irani speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

The controversy over the sexist remarks of JD-U leader Sharad Yadav refused to die down after Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani too was drawn into as the veteran leader remained unapologetic in the Rajya Sabha, which witnessed uproar today over his defiant attitude.

Calls to him to desist from such a language and withdraw his remarks over the colour and body of South Indian women fell on deaf ears as Sharad Yadav said he was ready to debate discrimination based on colour.

With Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani appealing to him not to bring in issues like colour of women, the JD-U leader retorted in a tone of derision, “who are you?”

“Why should I apologise? I raised a very important issue of discrimination on colour,” he said.

“There has been a long struggle against discrimination based on colour… I am ready to participate in a debate any time,” said Yadav.

Smriti Irani reacted sharply to the remarks, asking Yadav to refrain from commenting on complexion of women in any manner.

“I appeal through you (chair) to the gentleman, do not make comments about the colour of any woman’s skin. I beg of you. You (Sharad Yadav) are a senior member, a very wrong message is going to the rest of the country,” she said.

Yadav responded saying: “I strongly refute the allegation.”

“From Gandhi to Lohia, I have all the record of what has been said about women. A lot of struggle has been done for women with dark complexion,” he said.

Irani again got up to respond saying: “Please don’t do this. Naming Lohia and Gandhi and commenting on women”.

Trying to clarify, Yadav said, “I can discuss the issue with anyone, we are in favour of Indian culture.”

The issue figured after Prasad rose to dissociate himself from comments made by Yadav last week. “I dissociate myself from those remarks. I completely disassociate and disapprove of the remarks… I appeal to Sharad Yadav to kindly withdraw his comments,” he said.

Deputy chairman PJ Kurien said he would not allow a discussion on the issue.

“White complexion or dark complexion, it is all the same, I am not allowing a discussion on this,” Kurien said.

Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad opined that the issue should not be discussed as it will get more complicated.

During the debate on the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha last week, he spoke on Indian’s obsession for fair skin and said: “Your God is dark like Ravi Shankar Prasad, but your matrimonial ads insist on white-skinned brides.”

Today Yadav defended his remarks saying, “What have I said … ‘saanvli’ (dark complexioned) women are more in number in India, they are more in number the world over. I am ready to debate with anyone on the struggle of (Ram Manohar) Lohia and others for them.”

Outside the House, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he totally disassociated himself from remarks of Sharad Yadav and asked him not to stand on prestige but withdraw them.

Smriti Irani said as long as people like her were in Parliament, dignity of women would not be allowed to suffer.

BSP Chief Mayawati, who is also a member of Rajya Sabha, said it would have been better that Yadav, a senior member, avoids such issues.

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