Former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti's controversial "beautiful women" remark drew criticism on Tuesday with various political parties and women rights activists condemning the AAP legislator.
While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appeared to distance itself from the controversy, its rivals BJP and Congress slammed Bharti for the "derogatory" comments.
Notwithstanding the criticism, Bharti, an AAP MLA from Malviya Nagar, insisted that he was just trying to explain a "kind of benchmark" for women's security, a key poll promise of the AAP government in Delhi.
But, CPI(M)'s Brinda Karat said his comments -- made at the Delhi assembly -- reflected his "mentality" and quality of discussion at the House. She also described Bharti as a serial offender.
Bharti, who was allegedly involved in a midnight raid targeting a group of African nationals in Malviya Nagar in 2014 during AAP's 49-day stint in government, had said: "I am fully confident that if Delhi government is given full freedom (over security), beautiful women will be able to go out even after midnight without any fear. We will provide a fully-secure Delhi..."
Officials at Delhi Assembly said the comment were expunged from the records of the assembly later in the evening.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay called the comment "hugely insulting" for women in Delhi and said they reflected the AAP government's views about women. "We condemn the comments."
Senior BJP leader Vijendra Gupta, who is also leader of the Opposition in the Delhi assembly, said it was a "highly objectionable remark" from the AAP leader.
"The remark shows what he thinks about women. He made a comment in the presence of chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal) who did not stop him from using such words for women," Gupta said.
Congress' Barkha Singh, who was the chief of Delhi Commission for Women until last month, said: "The comments by Barti...were an insult on the women community."
Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee also termed the statement "derogatory".
"It is absolutely disgusting and derogatory towards women, but it is not surprising coming from someone who defied law even when he was the law minister of Delhi," Mukherjee said.
Bharti's wife Lipika Mitra, who in June had accused him of prolonged domestic violence, said: "If security of only beautiful women is taken care of, then where people like us will go."
Lipika said she was ill treated "perhaps because I am an average looking woman. He clearly isn't concerned about my security but only the security of 'beautiful' women.
Coming down hard on Bharti, women rights activist Kavita Krishnan said the AAP MLA's statement implies that 'beauty' and 'jewellery' are things possessed by women that are "stolen" by miscreants. "Bharti proved he's a bigot and sexist."
AAP spokesperson Reena Gupta said the party did not endorse Bharti's comments.
However, explaining his stand, Bharti said: "I have said beautiful women laden with jewelery can travel at midnight fearlessly as the kind of benchmark one can measure security level at Delhi against, if AAP has police control."