Bhopal/New Delhi/Bengaluru: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday dismissed union minister Giriraj Singh's "racist" remarks as stemming from a "narrow mindset" even as party members staged protests while the BJP sought the matter to be closed as he had expressed regrets.
Gandhi, who visited Madhya Pradesh to meet farmers whose crops have been damaged in the recent untimely rains, expressed ignorance about the remarks.
"What did he say," she asked reporters in a brief interaction during her visit, and after having been told, conveyed her disdain.
"It is not appropriate to respond to or comment on people with such narrow mindset. This is my answer," Gandhi said.
Singh, who is union minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises, had told reporters in Patna on Tuesday that he wondered if former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had married a non-white Nigerian woman, would the Congress still have accepted her as its president.
Singh, who has caused embarrassment to Bharatiya Janata Party earlier also, had to express regret over his remarks with the party leadership conveying its displeasure to him.
Sources said party president Amit Shah had spoken to Singh on Wednesday and pulled him up over the comments.
Congress leaders have strongly denounced Singh's remarks and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should dismiss him and apologise to the nation.
Former union Minister Kapil Sibal accused Modi of being silent on Singh's controversial remarks.
He said that it was part of BJP's strategy that "intemperate comments" were made, then someone from the party conveys disapproval but Modi remains silent.
He also took a dig at BJP over the party's good governance pitch.
"People of the country will decide if there will be Giriraj or Ramraj," he said.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha accused the BJP of being "casual and indifferent" on the issue and said Singh was a "repeat offender".
"Despite his previous observation on the campaign trail in 2014 where he asked all non-Narendra Modi supporters to leave India and go to Pakistan, he was rewarded by a post in the cabinet.
"If Modi remains silent this time as well, he is providing ammunition to many others in the party who are prone to making pedestrian remarks against Congress leaders," Jha told IANS.
Congress workers protested in New Delhi against Singh's remark. Holding posters and shouting slogans against Singh, they demanded that Modi should act against the minister.
In Bengaluru, where the BJP's three-day national executive committee meeting is underway, hundreds of cadres and supporters of the ruling Congress protested on Thursday, demanding that the minister be sacked.
The Congress cadres took out a rally from their party office, shouting slogans against Giriraj Singh, garlanding his portrait with footwear and burning his effigies.
In Bihar, a Congress leader on Thursday filed a court case against Giriraj Singh.
"I have filed a case in the chief judicial magistrate's court against Giriraj Singh for his racist remark against Sonia Gandhi and for insulting and hurting the sentiments of women," said Sanjay Kumar Singh, a Congress leader from Muzaffarpur district.
BJP leaders, however, said the issue should be treated as closed after the minister expressed his regret.
Party general secretary Ram Madhav said the matter had "ended" with Singh's clarification about the controversial comment.
BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said in Bengaluru that the matter should be treated as "closed".
"The minister has expressed regrets over his remarks and the matter should now be closed."
Hussain also referred to remarks made by Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam in 2012 about party leader Smriti Irani, who is now the human resource development minister but said the two cannot be compared.
"It is not right to compare the two issues. That is Congress culture... the kind of comments they give. Our party has expressed regret," Hussain said.
Nirupam had told Irani: "Till yesterday you were dancing on television and today you have become a politician."
Asked by a TV news channel about his comments, Nirupam said the matter was before the court.