New Delhi: Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agrawal on Monday created a furore minutes after joining the BJP with comments belittling actor-politician Jaya Bachchan as someone “who used to dance in films”, remarks dubbed “unacceptable” by party leader Sushma Swaraj.
Agrawal, who lost out to Bachchan in the race for re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha, quit the Samajwadi Party and joined the BJP. He said the SP had denied him the RS ticket and given it to somebody who used to dance and act in films, in an apparent reference to Bachchan.
“For somebody who used to dance in films, act in films, I was denied a ticket (for Rajya Sabha). I did not find it appropriate,” Agrawal said while joining the BJP at its headquarters.
He was flanked by several BJP leaders, including Union minister Piyush Goyal, who welcomed him into the party.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra distanced his party from Agrawal’s remarks, saying it respects people from all fields and welcomed them in politics.
A couple of hours later, senior BJP leader and its most prominent woman face Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to criticise Agrawal’s comments.
श्री नरेश अग्रवाल भारतीय जनता पार्टी में शामिल हुए हैं. उनका स्वागत है.
लेकिन जया बच्चन जी के विषय में उनकी टिप्पणी अनुचित एवं अस्वीकार्य है.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 12, 2018
“Naresh Agrawal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachchan ji are improper and unacceptable,” the external affairs minister tweeted.
Union minister Smriti Zubin Irani also appeared to be critical of Agrawal’s remarks, saying when a woman’s honour is challenged, “we stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics”. She did not, however, directly mention Agrawal.
“My case is in the court of law for 5 years now. But let my battle not be an excuse to humiliate other women. In fact, let it be a reminder for us that when a woman’s honour is challenged we stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics,” she said in a tweet.
Irani’s tweet was in response to a tweet which had referred to Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam’s alleged derogatory comment aimed at her. She had filed a case against him.
This morning, Agrawal has issued a statement, regretting his comment on Bachchan. He has, however, stopped short of apologising for the remark. He refused to switch from khed (regret) to muafi (apology) despite pressure from journalists who spoke to him outside Parliament.
Agrawal, who was in the Congress earlier, is not new to controversy. Last year, the BJP was up in arms over his remarks in the Upper House mocking Hindu gods.
His term as Rajya Sabha member ends on April 2. The SP has again nominated Bachchan to the Upper House.
Agrawal expressed his affection for SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, saying he could never leave them. Apparently criticising SP president Akhilesh Yadav, he added that it was losing strength in Uttar Pradesh due to its decision to ally with other parties.
Agrawal said he was joining the BJP unconditionally, and asserted that his MLA son would support the saffron party in the Rajya Sabha elections in the state.
He expressed his admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Welcoming him into the party, Goyal said he would strengthen it.
In the meantime, a war of words has erupted on social media between dedicated and disillusioned supporters of the government. A theory was floated last night that the inclusion of Agrawal was needed to stop Mayawati from reaching the Upper House. It was soon countered as the rebel group said that the BSP candidate for the Rajya Sabha was Bhimrao Ambedkar who enjoyed the support of the Congress.
With internal and agency inputs