Bhopal: Ex-AICC president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday snubbed Congress veteran Kamal Nath by terming his item jibe against Imarti Devi, the Dalit woman minister in the Shivraj cabinet, as “unfortunate”.
Talking to reporters in Wayanad in Kerala, Gandhi said, "Kamal Nath ji is from my party but personally, I don’t like the type of language that he used… I don’t appreciate it, regardless of who he is. It is unfortunate."
Septuagenarian Nath however sought to dismiss Gandhi’s remarks, saying "It is Rahul ji’s personal opinion. He (Rahul Gandhi) was briefed in which context it was said. I have already clarified in which context I had said this. There is no need for me to explain it further."
Asked by reporters here if he was going to apologise for his remarks, he shot back, "Why should I apologise? I have already clarified that I had no intention to show disrespect to anybody. I have also expressed regret (if my remarks offended anyone)."
In a statement issued earlier, Nath sought to clarify that the word he had used had ‘multiple interpretations’ and the word ‘item’ is not offensive and can be referred to anyone, even for me or chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
He however accused Chouhan of politicising the issue to gain mileage ahead of November 3 by-elections to 28 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh.
Reacting to the letter written by the chief minister to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking action against him for his item jibe, Nath described the charges as ‘nothing but lies’.
"I did not make any disrespectful remarks against anyone in my address in Dabra, yet you served all lies," Nath said while responding to Chouhan’s letter to Gandhi.
"The word you are highlighting has multiple meanings and interpretations but your party is trying to mislead people by diverting the attention of the voters from the real issues," the letter said.
Chouhan meanwhile hit out at Mr Nath for refusing to apologise for using the ‘derogatory’ jibe against a Dalit woman minister. "Nath is shamelessly trying to defend himself," Chouhan said.
Interestingly, state women commission chairperson Sobha Ojha on Tuesday came to Nath’s rescue on the issue, saying that the latter has already expressed regret for it.
"The chief minister is unnecessarily precipitating the issue," she said.
Ojha was chairperson of the media wing of Madhya Pradesh Congress before being appointed chairperson of state women commission barely a couple of days before Nath stepped down as chief minister on March 16.
Meanwhile, the woman minister threatened to commit suicide if a case was not registered against Nath under appropriate sections of Indian Penal Code for denigrating her in public.