Congress leaders on Friday refused to take action against President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee for his sexist comments on grounds that he had reportedly apologised on live television.
Suggesting a ’forgive and forget’ approach towards President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit, and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: “We should talk about good things and if someone realises his mistake, he should be supported and shown the right direction.”
Talking separately, party spokesman Rashid Alvi spoke in similar vein when asked whether there should be disciplinary action against Abhijit.
“He has realised his mistake and on his own, he has expressed regret,” Alvi said.
Earlier on Thursday, Mukherjee had apologised for his comment, saying he is sorry if his comments have hurt the sentiments of anyone and had also offered to quit if the party high command asks him to do so.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee, who had kicked up a row after making sexist remarks on women protestors in New Delhi, has said that he is ready to quit on Thursday evening, while speaking to CNN-IBN, Abhijit said, “If my party high command demands I will do that.”
When quizzed what will he do if his party takes disciplinary action against him, he said, “Whatever they want I will do, being a law abiding citizen, loyal soldier of party if party think I should resign I will do it.”
Abhijit Mukherjee sparked a row on Thursday, saying “dented and painted women protesters” who go to discotheques turned up at the India Gate to protest against the sexual assault of the 23-year-old paramedical student.
“Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), highly dented and painted,” Abhijit Mukherjee, an MP from Jangipur seat which the President had vacated before his election, told a vernacular news channel.
“Giving interviews on TV and showing off their children. I wonder whether they are students at all,” he said, adding, ”What’s basically happening in Delhi is something like pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities.”
As his insensitive remarks sparked outrage with even his sister Sharmistha expressing “utter shock and anguish” and apologising on his behalf, Abhijit “withdrew” his comments and said they were not meant to hurt “any particular section or any particular sentiment”.
“I express my utter shock and anguish. I really apologise to every woman, man and every sensitive person in this country. I am utterly shocked and only thing I can say is that I really apologise on his behalf… I am quite surprised with what my brother said,” Sharmistha said.
Asked whether Abhijit should apologise for his words, she said, “I completely agree. He should immediately apologise.
“Not only as a President’s son, but as any sensitive man, he should not have made this kind of statement. Forget about being a political leader, it shows a certain degree of insensitivity… My family is not like that,” she said.
On whether her father would be embarrassed with Abhijit’s remarks, Sharmistha said, “I am sure he will be. I can say that he also shares my view…. One thing is for sure that he (Pranab) does not agree with his (Abhijit) views. I am sure.
He (Pranab) has made a statement and during our personal interactions, he expressed his anguish.” Soon after Abhijit said, “I apologise to all the people whose sentiments who got hurt because of these sentences and these sentences are withdrawn” but the women activists and political leaders were unimpressed.
“If it is what he has said, it is truly regrettable. I think that is so far away from reality. As a representative of the people, obviously this is an insensitive statement… That is why the suffering is increasing,” former IPS officer and social activist Kiran Bedi said.
Terming the remarks as unfortunate, Smriti Irani, chief of BJP’ women wing, said it was especially distressing as they had come from the President’s son and that too at a ”challenging time” when not only women but men have come out on streets demanding justice and safer environment for women.
“I think this is exactly the kind of mindset that the youths are fighting against,” she said. Her party said the comments reflect the Congress mindset of not addressing the problem and instead attacking peaceful protesters.
“To criticise the common people who are taking out candle light march peacefully is not fair. Congress leaders should avoid such comments,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told PTI.
“Mukherjee should not have given such a statement. These comments show the Congress mindset of not addressing the crisis and criticising the protesters,” he added. Abhijit had said, “Walking in candlelight processions, going to discotheques, we have also led student life, we have been students. I well know what the character of a student should be.” Prominent women rights activist and director of Centre for Social Research (CSR), Ranjana Kumari said, “I am really sorry about the way he is thinking and talking. So, so irresponsible. Coming from a family of such a senior and seasoned politician, respected person, President of India’s son.”
I think this speaks volumes about the mindset, the way they look at women, the way they describe women, Kumari said.
“…. To talk like that is really demeaning the protest and extremely irresponsible. I totally condemn what he has said and he should apologise. This is not acceptable. He might be the son a President but what kind of comment is this.
Really looks like a lewd remark,” she said. Social activist Subhasini Ali termed the remarks as ”atrocious” and “insulting” to women.
“Just using these two words in the context of women is so insulting and to say that these were not students but ‘dented and painted women’, I cannot imagine something more insulting,” she said.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said political leaders cannot be allowed to get away with a mere apology after making such ”outrageous and highly condemnable” remarks “demeaning women” and there should be a code of conduct for elected representatives.
Jaya Jaitley said the women will not be “cowed down” by such comments and it will only add strength to the movement. She said the comments have revealed the true mindset of the people.
(With inputs from PTI)