New Delhi: Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi claimed today that he was joking when he made a deeply offensive remark to a woman journalist in Kerala, and that after he apologised to her, she "laughed it off."
On Monday, Mr Ravi, who is 75, was in his home state when a reporter asked him for his comments on the allegations of rape against another Congress leader, PJ Kurien.
"Do you have anything personal against Kurien? I am sure you do. Has something happened between you and him in the past?" Mr Ravi responded.
The comments were caught on camera.
After the controversy was discussed in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Ravi apologised to the reporter. Today, the Union Minister of Overseas Affairs said, "I apologised to her and she laughed it off... I apologised, what else can I do?"
People known to the reporter say she did not, as the union minister claims, "laugh off" his apology.
In Kerala, women activists and opposition parties have protested against the remarks. Parvathydevi of an NGO named Sakhi has demanded that this be treated as sexual harassment, since the reporter was doing her job when the derogatory remark was thrown at her.
"Such a comment is not expected from anyone in the public sphere," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said in Delhi, adding, "to the best of my knowledge he has retracted the comments and expressed regret. Let us leave it there."
The reporter, who was reportedly offended with Mr Ravi's body language and remarks, has now said that she has closed the chapter after his public apology.