India

Mayawati: India uproar after Dalit leader called prostitute

Ms Mayawati Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Mayawati is an icon to millions of low-caste Dalits in India

A senior politician in India has reacted angrily after a rival described her as "worse than a prostitute".

Ms Mayawati, an icon to millions of low-caste Dalits, has demanded the arrest of Dayashankar Singh for his outrageous comments.

Within hours of making the remark, Mr Singh was expelled from PM Narendra Modi's BJP party in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, reports say.

He has now apologised for his remark, but Ms Mayawati says it is not enough.

Ms Mayawati has been the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, four times and is an MP now.

The state is getting ready for key regional elections early next year and Ms Mayawati is leading her Bahujan Samaj Party's campaign there.

Mr Singh was one of the vice-presidents of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in the state.

"Mayawati is selling tickets [to candidates seeking to contest polls]... She gives tickets to anyone who gives her 1 crore rupees [10m rupees which is $148,786 or £112,992]," Mr Singh told reporters on Wednesday.

"If someone comes with 2 crores in the afternoon, she gives him a ticket. If somebody comes with 3 crores in the evening, she dumps the previous candidate and picks him. Her character is worse than that of a prostitute," he added.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Dalit politician is famous for building statues of herself and other icons from her community

An angry Mayawati hit back in the parliament.

"Everyone calls me behenji or sister even in the parliament," she said. "What that BJP leader has said, he has said to his sister and his daughter. The country will not forgive the BJP for this."

In an attempt to do damage control, senior BJP leader and India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley apologised to Ms Mayawati in the parliament.

"It is not right and I condemn the use of this word and if a person has said this, we will investigate. I express personal regret. I associate with your dignity and stand with you," he said.

The party also quickly sacked Mr Singh and ordered him to apologise.

Ms Mayawati, however, appears far from pacified and has demanded the arrest of the BJP politician.

The Dalit politician, who is famous for building statues of herself and other icons from her community, has a huge following.

In two parks in the state capital, Lucknow, and Noida, a suburb of Delhi, there are nearly a dozen statues of Ms Mayawati and more than 75 stone elephants - the symbol of her party.

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