Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath courted controversy on Sunday during his campaign for the upcoming Assembly by-poll by referring to Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, who was with the Congress till early 2020, as an ‘item’.

“Our candidate is not like her… what’s her name? (people shout Imarti Devi, who is former State Minister) You know her better and should have warned me earlier… ye kya item hai,” the 73-year-old leader can be heard saying in a video clip tweeted by news agency ANI.

This comment met with immediate criticism from the BJP candidate who appealed to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to remove ‘such’ people from her party. “Such people (former CM Kamal Nath) have no right to stay in Madhya Pradesh…I demand Congress president Sonia Gandhi to remove him from the party. She is also a woman and a mother, will she tolerate if anybody will say something like this about her daughter?” said Imarti Devi, according to ANI.

“What’s my fault if I was born in a poor family? What is my fault if I belong to Dalits?”, added Imarti Devi, the candidate from Dabra for November 3 by-polls. Devi and 21 other MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia had resigned from the Congress and the state Assembly and joined the BJP in March, bringing down the Kamal Nath government.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, hitting out at Nath, said, “It’s an insult to not only Imarti Devi but also to MP’s daughters/sisters. Kamal Nath is using objectionable words for a daughter who served Congress for so long. It’s a country where Mahabharat took place when Draupadi was disrespected. People won’t tolerate it. Shame on him.”

“This is Congress’s principle. First, Digvijay Singh had said something about Congress leader Meenakshi Natrajan which I don’t remember, now Kamal Nath called BJP’s Imarti Devi an ‘item’ while Ajay Singh called her ‘Jalebi’. Congress never respects women,” said BJP Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was formerly with the Congress.

By-polls for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held on November 3 and votes will be counted on November 10.