Former Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal on Tuesday expressed regret over his controversial remark referring to actress Jaya Bachchan as a “mere film dancer”.

Taking to media persons, the powerful former Samajwadi Party leader once known to be close to party chief Akhilesh Yadav said: “If my comment has hurt anyone, I express regret.”

However, the leader  known for shooting off his mouth, remained defiant and refused to apologise for his comment.

On Monday, speaking after joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Agrawal said the Samajwadi Party declined him a Rajya Sabha berth and gave it to a person just because she “could dance and act in the films”.

“My stature has been equated with that of a mere film actress. Just because she could dance and act in films, my candidature (to Rajya Sabha) has been sacrificed for her. I haven’t taken it kindly,” Agrawal said.

Read also: Before Naresh Agrawal, these leaders too made controversial comments on women

Agrawal’s term in the Rajya Sabha is ending next month and he was expecting a re-election to the upper House. But his hopes were dashed when the party chose Bachchan to be its candidate.

Due to paucity in the number of MLAs in the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly, the Samajwadi Party can send only one member out of its six members retiring next month.

Agrawal’s comment drew flak from all corners especially the women ministers of NDA.

Taking strong objection to his remarks, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj rebuked him in a tweet.

“Shri Naresh Agarwal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachchan ji are improper and unacceptable,” she said.

Union Minister Smriti Irani also condemned Agarwal’s statement: “My case (against Sanjay Nirupam) is in the court of law for 5 years now. But let my battle not be an excuse to humiliate other women.”

“In fact let it be a reminder for us that when a woman’s honour is challenged we stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics,” she wrote.