Indian media: Minister's 'distasteful remark' about Sonia Gandhi

Giriraj Singh is a minister in PM Narendra Modi's cabinet Image copyright PTI
Image caption Giriraj Singh is a minister in PM Narendra Modi's cabinet

Indian federal minister Giriraj Singh's "racist remarks" about opposition party leader Sonia Gandhi has sparked severe criticism from politicians and foreign diplomats.

"If [ex-Indian PM] Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, then would the Congress have accepted her leadership?" Mr Singh, 63, said in Bihar's Hajipur district.

After receiving criticism from his party colleagues and opposition leaders, Mr Singh said he was speaking informally and off the record.

"During off the record sessions, many things are said. If Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi are hurt by my statements, I regret what I said," the DNA website quotes him as saying.

Reports say Mr Singh's comments were targeted at Mrs Gandhi's "Italian roots".

Born Sonia Maino on 9 December 1946 in the town of Orbassano, near Turin, to a building contractor and his wife, Mrs Gandhi was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic household.

In 1964, she went to Cambridge to study English at a language school. Her life changed forever when she met her future husband, Rajiv Gandhi, who was studying engineering at the university.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sonia Gandhi (right) met her future husband Rajiv Gandhi (left) at Cambridge university

She is now an Indian citizen and heads the main opposition Congress party.

Her party has demanded an apology from Mr Singh and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

"The Congress strongly deprecates and condemns the intemperate and distasteful remarks of Giriraj Singh bordering on insanity," the NDTV website quotes Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala as saying.

The DNA adds that BJP chief Amit Shah has also told the minister to be restrained in his comments.

His comments have also drawn sharp reactions from Nigeria's acting High Commissioner to India, OB Okongor, in Delhi.

"Giriraj's remarks were in very bad taste and we expect the minister to withdraw the comments and apologise to the Nigerian people," the Zee News quotes him as saying.

'Fake civil servant'

Meanwhile, a woman allegedly faked her identity as a trainee and lived for six months at a civil services training academy in northern India, The Indian Express reports.

The police in Dehradun district of Uttrakhand state are now trying to track down the woman to get more details, the paper adds.

Senior police officers said they were unsure about the motive of the woman's decision to live in the academy.

And finally, Amaravati has been officially chosen as the new capital of southern Andhra Pradesh state, the NDTV website reports.

Andhra Pradesh was split into two in July 2013 to create the new state of Telangana. The state's former capital, Hyderabad, was given to Telangana.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites