Nitish Kumar apologises as his comment raises furore

The Opposition BJP came down heavily on Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s ‘indecent’ explanation as to why Bihar’s fertility rate dropped from 4.2 to 2.9%

Updated - November 09, 2023 09:48 am IST

Published - November 08, 2023 01:25 pm IST - Patna/New Delhi

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar speaks amid a protest by the Opposition MLAs over the remarks made by him on the importance of women’s education to control the population.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar speaks amid a protest by the Opposition MLAs over the remarks made by him on the importance of women’s education to control the population. | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after his “derogatory” comment in the State Assembly on the role of women’s education in population control, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday apologised both within and outside the House. The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the State, however, demanded Mr. Kumar’s resignation while protesting inside the Assembly. After the National Commission for Women (NCW) took cognisance of Mr. Kumar’s controversial comment, a complaint was also filed against him in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

“If my words have hurt anyone, I take them back. I apologise for whatever I said. I’m not only ashamed but condemn myself for making such comments,” said Mr. Kumar, amid the din created by Opposition BJP legislators inside the Assembly demanding his resignation over the “derogatory” comments.

“My words were not intended to hurt anybody. I’ve always maintained that education is necessary for population control and I’ve always stood for women’s empowerment and their development,” he further clarified.

‘Vulgar and shameful’

On Tuesday, while participating in a debate on the caste survey report after it was tabled in the Assembly, Mr. Kumar had said, “The fertility rate in the State has come down from 4.3% to 2.9% due to the education of women. An educated woman is able to ensure that sex does not necessarily end in pregnancy, which helps keep the population in check.”

Despite his apology on Wednesday, BJP MLAs continued their protest, trooping into the well of the House armed with placards demanding Mr. Kumar’s resignation, and calling his statement “vulgar”, “shameful”, and “sexist”. The Speaker of the House, Awadh Bihari Choudhary, had to adjourn the session twice on Wednesday. The BJP legislators continued to protest outside the Assembly as well.

“He is not worthy of being a Chief Minister of the State now. We demand his immediate resignation over his vulgar and shameful comment inside the State Assembly on November 7. It seems he has lost his mental balance,” said the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly and senior State BJP leader Vijay Kumar Sinha. “His deputy in the cabinet is talking about sex education. Both of them are not of worthy character,” he added.

Sex education vs indecent language

While defending Mr. Kumar’s comments, Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav had said, “One must not take it [Mr. Kumar’s statement] in the wrong sense. People are sometimes embarrassed to speak of it, but sex education is taught in schools. It is biology, and children study it.”

While addressing a poll rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took a dig at Mr. Kumar’s “indecent language”.

“He has shamed all of us, the whole State feels embarrassed because of what he said on Tuesday inside the Assembly,” said BJP leader and party legislator Sanjiv Chaurasia. Some BJP leaders even alleged that Mr. Kumar’s “mind is infested with worms from B-grade Bollywood adult films”.

Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan demanded that “President’s rule” be imposed in Bihar as “the entire State has been embarrassed by the statement of the Chief Minister”.

Former Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Rabri Devi defended Mr. Kumar for his comments. “It may be a slip of tongue but Nitish Kumar ji has apologised for this,” Ms. Devi said.

NCW calls for strong action

The NCW, however, strongly condemned Mr. Kumar’s remarks and asked the Speaker to take “strong action” against him. “Such derogatory and vulgar statements made by persons holding responsible positions shows extreme disrespect to women. Therefore, in view of the above, I urge for strong action against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his statement must be expunged from the records,” NCW chief Rekha Sharma wrote, in a letter to the Bihar Speaker.

A lawyer, Anil Kumar Singh, also filed a complaint against Mr. Kumar in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday. A hearing in the matter will take place on November 25.

‘Foul language’

Mr. Kumar has previously courted controversy with his comments on women. In November 2021, a woman BJP legislator Nikki Hembrom, from Banka district’s Katoria constituency (a seat reserved for Scheduled Tribes), had alleged that Mr. Kumar had used “foul” language against her at a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) legislators’ meeting which was called to mull the effective use of prohibition laws in the State.

At the meeting, Mr. Kumar had allegedly told the woman BJP MLA, “You’re so good looking, but your thoughts are completely the opposite.”

“Nitish Kumar’s objectionable comment left me shocked. Maybe he did not understand my concern but such words put a woman in the dock… His words were improper, they made me an object of fun and ridicule,” Ms. Hembrom had said at the time.

The Janata Dal (United) was then a part of the NDA government along with the BJP; the relationship broke in August 2022, with Mr. Kumar snapping ties with the BJP to form a grand alliance government along with the RJD, the Congress, and other smaller parties.

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