Chandigarh: Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma has landed himself in a soup for allegedly using objectionable language while referring to India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
"I did not mean to be disrespectful towards the country's first Prime Minister. I was just using Haryanvi dialect and referring to conversation between co-passengers who had boarded a bus from Rohtak to Delhi when Nehru had passed away. If anybody's sentiments have been hurt, I apologise for the same," Sharma told reporters in Panchkula.
The minister who was speaking as chief guest at the three-day folk festival at Maharshi Dayanand University at Rohtak in Haryana yesterday, courted controversy after narrating an anecdote in which two persons during a conversation used some cuss words while talking about Nehru.
Sharma's remarks were criticised by the opposition Congress, saying that use of such language by senior ministers in the BJP government against national icons cannot be tolerated and is holding statewide protests over the matter.
Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar termed the remarks as an "affront to the nation."
"This is part of concerted right-wing drive to humiliate national icons. Respecting elders, especially the deceased is part of our culture. Indians call Nehru ji Chacha and insulting him is an affront to nation. We condemn this behaviour," he said.
Tanwar said that use of such language by a senior minister had come barely two days after an orientation class was held here for the newly elected MLAs of Haryana, in which they were told how to conduct themselves before the public.
The BJP leader had earlier kicked up a row with his remarks that the state government was keen to "saffronise" education, days after it took a decision to include 'Bhagwad Gita' in the school curriculum.