- Hegde said this on a day when the state witnessed right-wing protests
- Agitation was over two women of menstrual age entering Sabarimala shrine
- The Minister had earlier referred to Dalits as "dogs barking on the road"
Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde on Wednesday termed the Kerala government's handling of the Sabarimala row as the "daylight rape" of Hindus, crossing yet another dubious milestone in a political career studded with controversies.
The comment came on a day when the southern state witnessed widespread right-wing protests against the entry of two women into the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. Clashes were witnessed in state capital Thiruvananthapuram, with police using tear gas bombs and water cannons to disperse agitators.
"The chief minister's prejudice, rather than the Leftist prejudice, is causing complete confusion in Kerala. The Supreme Court has given the direction, I totally agree with that. But since law and order is a state subject, it should have seen how it can be managed diplomatically without hurting the faith of the masses," Mr Hegde told news agency ANI in a measured tone, before pausing to drop his bombshell: "The Kerala government has entirely failed. I would like to say that it's totally daylight rape on Hindu people."
This is not the first time the Union Minister has stirred up a controversy with ill-considered remarks on sensitive issues. Last year, he described Dalit protesters who waylaid his convoy en route to a job fair in Karnataka's Ballari as "dogs barking on the road". A few months later, he compared the opposition to "crows, monkeys, foxes and others" that had come together to fight the tiger that's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even the Janata Dal(United), a BJP ally, asked him to mind his language.
In 2017, he said that his party -- the BJP -- would change the Constitution by removing the word "secular" from it -- provoking protests across the country. The same year, he was caught slapping a doctor on camera because he wasn't happy with the medical treatment provided to his mother.
Mr Hegde is just the latest in a list of a high-profile individuals to loosely use the word "rape" in an otherwise unrelated context. Two years ago, Bollywood star Salman Khan was forced to apologise for telling reporters that his gruelling filming schedule made him feel like a "raped woman".
(With inputs from ANI)