Congress leader’s sexist ‘latka-jhakta’ remark on Smriti Irani snowballs into controversy: Who said what

Congress leader’s sexist ‘latka-jhakta’ remark on Smriti Irani snowballs into controversy: Who said what

Union minister Smriti Irani hit back against Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Ajay Rai’s shocking ‘latkas’ and ‘jhatkas’ remark. File photo/PTI

Women in politics often have to face the taunt of their male colleagues. The latest victim of misogyny is Union minister Smriti Irani. This is not the first time she is subject to sexism and it is unlikely it will be the last.

Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Ajay Rai took a jibe at Irani, which has now snowballed into a controversy, inviting criticism from senior leaders, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister herself.

What did Ajay Rai say?

While talking to the media in UP’s Sonbhadra, Rai said that the Gandhi family carried out all the development work in Amethi. Irani is the Lok Sabha MP from the constituency which was a stronghold of the Gandhis for decades.

Rai said that Irani visits Amethi and returns after giving “latke-jhatke”.

“Rahul Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, they contested on this seat (Amethi). They carried out developmental works including setting up of many factories including BHEL… Now more than half of the factories are lying closed, Smriti Irani only comes and leaves after giving ‘latke-jhatke’,” he said, making a pejorative reference to dance moves.

When asked whether Gandhi would make a bid to win back Amethi, he answered in the affirmative.

The sexist remark has not gone down well with the BJP. Outraged, Irani too has slammed the Congress leader.

However, Rai, despite facing backlash, remains unapologetic. “It is a common, bol-chaal ki bhasha (way of speaking) in Amethi. It is not unparliamentary and I had no intention of insulting anyone. I have just said in a common way. Why should I apologise,” he asked.


Also read: Why is Smriti Irani always subjected to misogynist, sexist attacks?

How has Irani reacted?

The Amethi MP has hit back at the demeaning comment, taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi. Tagging him on Twitter, she wrote in Hindi, which can be roughly translated to, “Heard one of your provincial leaders have announced in an indecent manner that you would contest from Amethi in 2024. So is it definite that you will contest from Amethi? You won’t run off to another seat? You won’t be afraid???

“PS: You & Mummy ji need to get your mysoginistic goons a new speechwriter,” she added, referring to senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.

What has the BJP said?

Reacting sharply to Rai’s comments, the BJP said it was “shameful” coming from a leader of a party, which has given India its first woman prime minister (Indira Gandhi) and was helmed by a woman (Sonia Gandhi) for a long time.

“The language used by Congress has always been anti-women. It shows the culture and mindset of Congress. And a party, which has given a woman prime minister to the nation, and which was headed by a woman president for a long time, such statements from its leader, is definitely shameful,” UP’s BJP spokesperson Anand Dubey.

Also read: Sexism infects every party in India

Another party spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala said that this is not a “sanyog” but a “prayog” sponsored by the Gandhi family.

“Rahul Gandhi loyalist Ajay Rai makes shocking “latke jhatke” comment on Smriti Irani ji. This is not a Sanyog – it is a prayog sponsored by first family to take political revenge because Smriti ji defeated the dynast – Congress even insulted 1st Woman Adivasi President,” Poonawala tweeted.

BJP spokesperson Anila Singh said that the character of the Congress party and its leaders was misogynistic. “I am not at all surprised as this is the character of the Congress party. We have seen in the past that they do not have any respect for women and this is the reason prominent female faces have left the party.”

“A political party is headed by a woman (Sonia Gandhi) and a daughter of that powerful woman (Priyanka Gandhi) who carries out campaigns like ‘Ladki hoon Lad Sakti Hoon’. Is this the way Congress is going to ridicule the position and character of a woman?” she asked.

“Smriti Irani is the leader who defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. What does he have to say about Rahul, Priyanka, and Sonia Gandhi? It’s easy to character-assassinate any successful woman,” she told

Former Union Cabinet minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that while “boys” are fighting for development, Smriti Irani is clearing the dust of feudal politics.

Also read: A look at sexist comments by Indian politicians

What has Congress said?

So far, Congress has not reacted to Rai’s remarks or the attacks of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi is in Rajasthan, leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

With inputs from agencies

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