New Delhi, Jan 7: The BJP Wednesday distanced itself from a remark by party MP Sakshi Maharaj that Hindu women should produce four children to protect Hinduism. The Congress slammed the remark and sought clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah distanced himself from Sakshi Maharaj's controversial statement, the party issued a statement in Delhi echoing similar views.
"This is his personal opinion. I don't want to comment on this," Shah told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Address a gathering in Meerut Tuesday, Maharaj said the concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and the time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion.
Maharaj also said a law will be passed in parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with death.
Shah said his party was opposed to forcible religious conversion and asked if the "so-called secular parties" would support legislation to prevent forcible conversion.
"Forcible conversion should be stopped in the country. The BJP is not in favour of forcible conversions.
"But, there should be a consensus to bring the law. You ask the so-called secular parties whether they would support to bring the law," he said.
BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma issued a statement which distanced the party from Sakshi Maharaj's remarks and asked BJP activists to keep away from unnecessary statements.
"BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj's remarks are his personal views. The BJP believes in politics of development and good governance," the statement said.
"All party workers are requested to focus on publicising the public welfare initiatives of the central government and try to keep themselves away from any unnecessary statements," it added.
The BJP's official response came after a sharp attack by the Congress which said the electoral slogan of the ruling party seemed to be "ab ki baar, bacche char (this time four children)".
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi had spoken on most "minute, micro issues" but has kept quiet on Sakshi Maharaj's remarks.
"The prime minister is silent, the home minister is silent, the finance minister is silent. If they are silent, what does it mean," he asked.
Singhvi asked if the BJP has changed India's population policy without the people's knowledge.
"Is the population policy of India now going to be in the electoral slogan - 'Ab ki baar, bacche char' or is it going to be 'Make in India + 4'," Singhvi said.
He said Sakshi Maharaj's remarks reflected a viewpoint of seeing women as child-bearing structures.
"This is a complete insult to the power potential and capacity of about 50 percent of our population. I think it behoves no one to tolerate this kind of a statement for more than a second," he said.
The Hindi film fraternity also expressed shock over Sakshi Maharaj's remarks.
Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt tweeted: "Sakshi Maharaj wants all Hindu women to have at least four children. The good news, he hasn't specified the number of husbands."
Composer Vishal Dadlani, a strong supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party, posted: "I finally get what BJP means by development. New developments in stupidity, every day! In an overloaded nation, this."
Comedian Vir Das saw the lighter side of the matter. "Dear Sakshi Maharaj, as long as every Hindu woman has even one kid who laughs at your speech, I think we will be ok," he said.
Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha added: "Just making it clear that I am a different Hindu from this Sakshi... Very Different. Are you too???"
Celebrity jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali tweeted: "Three percent of India pays taxes to support an already overpopulated country where majority are illiterate and unemployed. On the other hand (you) have (people) like Sakshi Maharaj asking (women) to produce four children. Ask to make arrangements to support them."
Tanuj Garg, former CEO of Balaji Motion Pictures, said: "Sakshi Maharaj wants every Hindu woman to produce four children. And we want him gagged."