Bihar politician Sharad Yadav was pummeled in Parliament and on social media for his comments on "dark-skinned south Indian women" during a debate.
Mr Yadav, a parliamentarian of Bihar's ruling Janata Dal United, was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday on the government's bill for insurance reforms when he inexplicably launched into a rant on what he called the Indian obsession with fair skin.
He described the proposal to raise foreign investment from 26 to 49 per cent as a symptom of this obsession. "Here people are awed by fair skin. Matrimonial ads also ask for fair skinned brides," he said.
What made matters worse was this odd non sequitur. "In the entire country there are more saanvle (dark skinned) men. The women of south are beautiful, their bodies...their skin ...We don't see it here. They know dance," said the 67-year-old, who was named outstanding Parliamentarian of 2012.
When DMK MP Kanimozhi objected, Mr Yadav said every discussion in Parliament need not be "serious".
Mr Yadav also referred to filmmaker Leslee Udwin, whose documentary on the December 16 gang-rape has sparked a huge debate. "She must have got permissions easily. All doors open for fair-skinned women," he commented.
Congress leader Rajiv Shukla said Mr Yadav should apologise.
"This kind of comment from one of our seniormost parliamentarians is absolutely appalling. It reeks of racism and misogyny," said the BJP's Sambit Patra.
"It's shocking and highly objectionable. These remarks should be expunged and not allowed," said senior CPM leader Brinda Karat.
The criticism did draw an apology, but not from Mr Yadav.
"If his comments have hurt anyone I want to apologise. But Sharad Yadav only spoke as a father figure... even so if anyone is hurt I say sorry with folded hands," said KC Tyagi, a leader of Mr Yadav's party.
Mr Yadav had in the past controversially used the term "parkati auratein (short-haired women)" to argue against the Women's Quota Bill.
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