Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday demanded resignation of Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi for allegedly calling protesting farmers "hooligans".
Ms Lekhi, when asked about incidents of violence during the farmers' protests against the three central agricultural laws, had on Thursday called the protesters "mawali" or hooligans.
After a reporter referred to farmers allegedly attacking a cameraperson when he was covering their protests at Jantar Mantar, she said, "You should stop calling them farmers because they are not farmers. They are playing in the hands of some conspirators. Farmers don't have time to sit in Jantar Mantar. They are working on their farms. Middlemen are behind them (protesters) who do not want farmers to get benefits."
She also cited the violent incidents in the national capital during farmers' protest on January 26 and said these protesters should not be called farmers.
Mr Singh slammed the BJP leader for using "derogatory language" for the farmers and said the remark reflected the party's anti-farmer mindset.
"Given the ruling party's brazen attempts to stifle all voices of dissent and protest, the fact that it had failed to break the spirit of the farmers was clearly rankling," an official release quoted Mr Singh as saying.
Mr Singh also slammed the NDA government for its continued efforts to "suppress every single voice that dares to speak against them, as in the latest instance of the IT raids on the Dainik Bhaskar media group", the statement added.
Mr Singh called the assault on the journalist covering the protest deplorable. He, however, said Ms Lekhi's reaction was uncalled for and provocative.
Ms Lekhi, he said, had no right to defame the farmers in such a manner
The union minister later said her statement had been misinterpreted.
मेरे शब्दों को तोड़ा मरोड़ा गया है अगर इससे किसी को ठेस पहुँची है तो मैं अपने शब्द वापस लेती हूँ । pic.twitter.com/s98ezkskzl— Meenakashi Lekhi (@M_Lekhi) July 22, 2021
"My statement has been misinterpreted. Nonetheless, if my comments that are being linked with farmers have hurt anyone, then I take my words back," she said.
With inputs from PTI