BJP MP Vinay Katiyar on Wednesday courted controversy for his alleged sexist remarks against Congress star campaigner Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, inviting flak from her and the Congress over the comments that she said exposed the "BJP's mindset".
Katiyar's comments, which came a day after Priyanka was named among the Congress' star campaigners for poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, attracted condemnation from his own party as well as the Delhi Commission for Women.
The BJP leader said his party had "prettier star campaigners" (than Priyanka).
"It doesn't make any difference. We have far prettier women, heroines as star campaigners," he said in a remark that was seen as underestimating Priyanka's ability to attract voters through her political acumen and rating her on the basis of looks.
Katiyar, however, did a volte face later and blamed the media for distorting his comments.
"I have not made any sexist remarks. I have been misquoted by the media," he told various news channels.
Even as Priyanka laughed off the remarks, she said Katiyar has only exposed the BJP's mindset towards women.
"And if that is all he sees in my colleagues who are such strong, brave and beautiful women that have battled through all sorts of hardships to get where they are, then he makes me laugh even more. Because he exposes the BJP's mindset towards the better half of the population of India," she said.
Her husband Robert Vadra expressed shock at the "misogynist and atrocious remarks" and sought a public apology.
"This exposes the shameful mindset of some of our political leaders. We all need to respect women and accept them as equals instead of commoditising and objectifying them. As a society, we need to bring in a change. Vinay Katiyar should publically apologise for his remarks," Vadra said on his Facebook account.
Reacting to Katiyar's remark, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "Disparaging and atrocious remarks of Vinay Katiyar on Priyankaji reflect the petty and insulting culture of BJP that commodifies women."
The BJP MP's comments came a day after Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav found himself in a similar controversy, saying "honour of being able to cast a vote is much bigger than your daughter's honour".
"If a daughter's honour is violated, then only her neighbourhood, her village will lose its honour. But if a vote is sold, it is the country's honour that goes," said Yadav.
Both Yadav and Katiyar attracted severe criticism from parties across the spectrum.
Distancing the party from Katiyar's remarks, Union Minister and BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the comments against Priyanka were "totally unacceptable".
"Most of the male politicians don't even understand when you talk about objectifying women. There should be something to sensitize these people, to make them aware what are women rights, what these issues are," said DMK leader Kanimozhi.
"They don't understand what can be said and what cannot."
Meanwhile, Yadav sought to defend his remarks, saying "the way one loves a daughter if he loves votes the same way, then only the society will progress, and the country will progress".