A controversy has broken out in Kerala after a Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPM, leader A. Vijayaraghavan was accused by the opposition Congress on Tuesday for making a disparaging remark against a young Congress' woman candidate, Ramya Haridas, while on the campaign trail a day ago.
The development has led to Haridas, a candidate from Alathur seat in Kerala, loding a police complaint against Vijayaraghavan on Tuesday, alleging that his "offensive" comments amounted to outraging the modesty of women. The timing of the controversy could not have been worse for the Communists.
Vijayaraghavan, convenor of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), is a senior leader of the party. The controversy comes at a time when the Left has been trying to portray itself as champions of women rights, in the backdrop of the Sabarimala controversy, ahead of the polls on 23 April.
The senior leader had allegedly made the controversial remarks in connection with the recent meeting of Ramya Haridas and IUML leader P.K. Kunhalikutty.
"We have received the UDF candidate's complaint..We are looking into it.. The incident happened in Ponnai which is not in Palakkad district. Appropriate steps will be taken soon regarding the transfer of the complaint to the concerned police station and investigation," a top police official told news agency PTI.
Vijayaraghavan's remarks, while speaking at party's poll convention at Malappuram district on Monday, has triggered widespread outrage on social media.
Senior Congress leaders including former chief minister Oommen Chandhy, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala came out against the alleged anti-woman statement and demanded an apology.
While Chennithala and Chandy said the remarks amounted to outrage the modesty of women and insulting the Dalit community, Ramachandran said the CPM-led LDF government should register a case against Vijayaraghavan.
Haridas, contesting against CPM's two-time sitting MP P.K. Biju, said she was pained over the Left leader's remarks.
"It has caused mental agony for me... he should have thought that I also have a family... Character assassination cannot be accepted," she told reporters in Alathur, a reserved constituency in north Kerala.
The LDF leader had made the statement at a time when the party was speaking about renaissance and progressive values and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan claims to ensure women security, she alleged.
However, Vijayaraghavan on Tuesday clarified that his remarks against Haridas were distorted by the media and he did not intend to insult or hurt anyone.
"I have never intended to tarnish the image of anyone. It was a political speech... Ramya is like a sister to me.. I am a person who respects women," he told reporters when his reaction was sought.
— Press Trust of India contributed to this story.