As comments from its leaders praising Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse invited widespread condemnation, with only two days left for final phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha election, the BJP today (Friday, May 17) tried to control damage.
BJP president Amit Shah, in a series of tweets, said Pragya Singh Thakur, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde and Nalin Kumar Kateel, all contesting the election, have been asked for an explanation within 10 days.
“These comments have nothing to do with the party. All three have apologized, but these comments are against the ideology of the BJP and are being referred to the disciplinary committee,” Shah tweeted.
Pragya Singh Thakur, the BJP candidate from Bhopal, had yesterday decribed Godse, who killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, as a “deshbhakt (patriot)”.
Today, Karnataka parliamentarian, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde jumped into the ongoing controversy on Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, saying after seven decades he would be happy with the debate.
While the Opposition called out Pragya Singh Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot, Anant Kumar Hegde said, “Time to assert and move away from being apologetic! If not now … When?”
Hedge said that the time has changed and it gives good scope for the condemned to be heard upon. “Am glad that 7 decades later today’s generation debates in a changed perceptional environment and gives good scope for the condemned to be heard upon. #NathuramGodse would have finally felt happy with this debate!” Hegde tweeted.
BJP MP from Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada constituency Nalinkumar Kateel said that Godse only killed one man but former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000 people – a reference to 1984 anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
“Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is crueler in this??” Nalin Kateel tweeted.
Rajiv Gandhi was named in the same breath as 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, who was executed in 2012 for his role in one of the worst terror attacks in India.
The BJP has repeatedly raised Rajiv Gandhi, the father of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, while targeting the opposition party over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. Nearly 3,000 were killed in the three-day carnage.
Kateel, a two-time BJP parliamentarian, is contesting the election again from Dakshina Kannada.
Both the tweets have vanished from their Twitter timelines. Anant Kumar Hegde put out a message claiming his account had been breached.
He deleted the tweet and posted: “My Twitter account has been breached twice in the past one week and certain tweets have been posted on my timeline which has been discarded and deleted. Regret the posts attributed to me.”
On Thursday, Pragya Thakur said: “Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot), is a ‘deshbhakt’ and will remain a ‘deshbhakt’. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a fitting reply in the election.”
Despite her party disowning the comment, Pragya Thakur remained defiant and stopped short of an apology twice. “The party’s line is my line,” she said at first. Then she said the comment was her personal view and expressed regret for hurting sentiment.
She finally apologised on Twitter late last night. “I apologise to the people of the country for my statements on Nathuram Godse. My statement was absolutely wrong. I have huge respect for the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi,” she tweeted in Hindi.
Pragya Thakur made the remark in response to actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s comment, dubbing Godse as “Independent India’s first Hindu terrorist.”
The Congress expressed dissatisfaction at BJP distancing itself from the comments and issuing a statement condemning them and sought an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just as the BJP had demanded Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s apology for Sam Pitroda’s ‘hua to hua’ remark about 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
In a TV debate, the BJP representative ruled it out, saying Pragya Thakur was a very junior functionary and the PM could not be asked to respond over her misdemeanours.
Both PM Modi and BO chief Amit Shah had, however, backed Pragya and defended fielding her for Lok Sabha election from Bhopal.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Thursday dared the BJP’s “nationalistic luminaries” to spell out their stand on their Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur calling Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a patriot and said merely distancing from her is not enough.
“Bapu’s assassin a patriot? Hey Ram. Distancing yourself from your candidate is not enough. Nationalistic luminaries of the BJP have the guts to spell out your stand,” Priyanka tweeted.