Following backlash from various quarters for his “insensitive” and “objectionable” remarks, Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar apologised on the floor of the House on Wednesday for likening himself to a rape victim. He also got the remarks expunged.
On Wednesday, women legislators, taking exception to his remarks, had met him and expressed their disapproval.
Kumar, however, blamed the media for sensationalising his comments. “I apologise if my comments hurt or insulted anyone, particularly women. I did not intend to hurt or insult anyone,” Kumar said.
He said that legislators Anitha Kumaraswamy, Anjali Nimbalkar, Roopakala Shashidhar, Laxmi Hebbalkar, Kaneez Fatima, Sowmya Reddy and Vinisha Nero had met him.
“They met me regarding the comments I made on rape victims and how their plight can be endless. They (women MLAs) said that other members laughed as I made those remarks and that it was difficult for them to face questions about it. Also, the media probably had nothing else so they made mass masala out of my comments,” Kumar said, and apologised.
“No women will be insulted or caused hurt from my seat. And going forward, it will not happen in this House.”
The Speaker’s remarks had kicked up a storm on social media attracting trolls. Also, women’s organisations across the state had condemned him for his remarks and had sought his apology.
Welcoming his apology, Khanapur MLA Anjali Nimbalkar, said, “The Speaker’s comments were taken insensitively inside the session by members, which was inappropriate. He meant to say he is going through the same pain as a rape victim. We all members didn’t expect this from a dignified Chair. We requested him to expunge his remarks. He has acted accordingly.”
When DH spoke to some of the women legislators in the House on Wednesday, they were unanimous in their opinion that the Speaker’s remarks were unwarranted.
While the BJP MLAs Roopali Naik (Karwar) and Shashikala Jolle (Nippani), said that the remarks were in “bad taste”, the Congress members, Laxmi Hebbalkar and Soumya Reddy, however, defended Kumar.
“He shouldn’t have made such comments. It was highly insensitive,” said Jolle. Seconding her, Naik said, “The Speaker has joked about a rape survivor’s plight. He has spoken dismissively. He shouldn’t have done it,” she added.
During the discussion on the audio clip row surrounding him, Kumar had compared his situation to that of a rape survivor. He had said that the repeated references to the “Rs 50 crore” bribery charge against him, had made him feel like he was being “raped multiple times”.
Interestingly, none of the members of the House objected to the Speaker’s remarks. They instead cheered him on by bursting into laughter.