Senior BJP leader Uma Bharti, in a series of controversial comments undermining the bureaucracy, has said that officials are around only "to pick up our slippers" and have "no standing (aukat)".
The video of her comment has been widely shared since Saturday and following a backlash, she apologised for her "intemperate" language.
"Bureaucracy is nothing. Bureaucracy is there to pick up chappals (slippers). It picks up our slippers. We only allow that," the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and ex Union Minister bragged at an event.
"You think bureaucrats control politicians? No. First there are discussions in private and then the bureaucracy prepares a file and gets it. Ask me - for 11 years I have been Union Minister and chief minister. First we have a discussion and then the file is processed. It's all nonsense that bureaucracy controls the politicians. They can't... what is their standing? We are giving them a salary, we are giving them postings, we are giving them promotions and demotion - what can they do? The truth is we use them for our politics," said the saffron-robed politician.
Uma Bharti, 62, made the comments before an OBC (Other Backward Classes) delegation that visited her at her home in Bhopal on Saturday. The group reportedly raised their demand for a caste-based census and quota in private jobs, and threatened protests if the Madhya Pradesh BJP government did not decide quickly.
The opposition Congress called the comments shameful and demanded a clarification.
"Will Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan clarify whether bureaucrats actually pick up slippers of politicians," Congress leader KK Mishra demanded.
The clarification came on Monday evening. In a series of tweets, she wrote in Hindi: "The day before yesterday at my residence in Bhopal, I met a delegation of backward classes. This meeting was not a formal one. The video of that entire conversation has gone viral in the media. I am thankful to the media that they showed my complete video because I was speaking in defence of bureaucracy."
"Some of us leaders - the incompetent ones sitting in power - take the guise of bureaucracy to avoid their inefficiency that 'we are very good but bureaucracy does not allow us to do good work'. Whereas the truth is that honest bureaucracy supports a strong, true and well-intentioned leader sitting in power. This is my experience," she said.
"I am sorry, I used intemperate language when my expressions were good. I learned this lesson from today that moderate language should be used even in informal conversations between limited people," Ms Bharti said.