Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Sunday announced a ‘maun vrat (observing silence)’ in protest against former chief minister and Congress leader Kamal Nath who referred to a female minister as an “item” at an election rally in Gwalior-Chambal region. Chauhan said his predecessor committed a “crime”.
“Ex-chief minister committed a crime. Incumbent CM will repent for it,” said the chief minister announcing his ‘maun vrat’ protest at an election meeting held at Vrindavan Vatika in Gwalior on Sunday.
It all began at an election meeting held by the Congress in Dabra legislative assembly constituency, one of 16 legislative assembly constituencies in Gwalior-Chambal region, which was addressed by former chief minister Kamal Nath.
Nath was drawing a comparison between Congress candidate Suresh Raje and BJP candidate and woman and child development minister in Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet Imrati Devi. Nath said, “Suresh Raje is a simple man. He is down to earth. He is not like the person. What is the name of the person?”
As crowd responded to his question citing Imrati Devi’s name, Kamal Nath called her an “item”, saying, “Why should I name her? You know her better than I know… Ye kya item hai…”
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A delegation of the state BJP, led by its general secretary Kavita Patidar, lodged a complaint with the state chief electoral officer and demanded action against Nath. The chief minister, in his election meeting in Gwalior, said, “My brothers and sisters! I can tolerate any insult to me but Kamal Nath! You have done a great injustice. You have insulted a daughter of Gwalior district. Imrati Devi was born to a poor family. She worked as a labourer and then became an MLA and minister. She was born as a member of the scheduled caste but no one has the right to insult a daughter of the poor.”
Chouhan said, “Kamal Nath seth (rich trader) says Imrati Devi is an item. He should feel ashamed. Will someone be allowed to play with the dignity of a woman and daughter? Today is the second day of Navratra (during which) we worship mother Goddess… This is our land where it is said women are honoured, divinity blossoms here…This is India where when Draupadi was insulted it ensued Mahabharat and a clan was annihilated (ek vansh ka vinash ho gaya).”
Chouhan said, “insult to sister Imrati is an insult to every sister of Madhya Pradesh. People of the state in general and BJP workers, in particular, will not tolerate this.”
State Congress president’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said, “Kamal Nath ji didn’t mention name of Imrati Devi while citing ‘Ye kya item hai’. He clearly said he would not name anyone. But BJP, which doesn’t have any real issue to raise during the by-polls, misinterpreted the word ‘item’ for its political gains.”
Saluja said, “The fact is that the BJP is insulting the womenfolk by associating the word ‘item’ with Imrati Devi and it should apologize to people for its actions. Congress will lodge a complaint with the Election Commission on this.”
Imrati Devi, who held the same portfolio in the Kamal Nath government, resigned from the state assembly on March 10 this year along with 21 other Congress MLAs including five ministers which led to fall of the Congress government. All 22 ex-MLAs joined the BJP and are now fielded as BJP candidates in state legislative assembly by-polls which will be held in 28 assembly constituencies.
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