Mumbai: Under fire for his 'sexist' remark that liquor brands be named after women to boost sales, Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan on Monday profusely apologised, saying he had no intentions to hurt women's sentiments.
Amidst a furore with ally Shiv Sena and most opposition parties like the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Aam Aadmi Party targeting him, Mahajan on Monday said "sorry".
However, he said the comments were made in a lighter vein, as he had made it clear in the Sunday's event itself.
Addressing a function on Sunday to launch the sugarcane-crushing season in a cooperative sugar factory in Nandurbar, Mahajan had commented that liquor brands should be named after women to hike sales.
"The chairman of a sugar factory informs that there is no market for the liquor brand produced in his distillery... I asked the name of the brand and it was 'Maharaja',
"So, I suggested he should change it to 'Maharani' for hiking sales," Mahajan said.
He also referred to other brands like 'Julie,' 'Bobby', 'Dingri' and said those distilleries are doing roaring business. He said once the name of 'Maharaja' was changed to 'Maharani', its sales would shoot up.
He went a step further and said even tobacco products brands carried names of women and were doing good business.
The massive controversy apparently had a "sobering" effect on Mahajan who claimed that he was a teetotaller who refrained from liquor, tobacco and even tea, as he expressed regrets over his jocular remarks.
Ally Shiv Sena lambasted the Minister saying on one hand, women in many parts of Maharashtra were campaigning for prohibition to rid the men of alcoholism and on the other Mahajan wanted women to become "brand ambassadors" to pep up liquor markets.
Congress state President Ashok Chavan, ridiculing Mahajan for the remarks, said he was "pained".
NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the remarks were made out of arrogance and the people of the state would not rest without removing the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition in the state.
AAP spokesperson Preeti Sharma-Menon demanded an "unconditional apology" from the Minister for insulting women and questioned whether boosting liquor sales was his "social responsibility".
"He has stooped so low... Here is a minister who at times attends the wedding of (mafia don) Dawood's relatives and at other times insults women like this... It reflects the mindset of the RSS and the BJP.
"If Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis cannot control his ministers, he should quit," she said.
Despite facing all-round flak, Mahajan countered by asking why nobody was talking about the distilleries which have used women's names on their liquor brands.