Politics

BJP Scrambles for Cover as Pragya Thakur Brands Gandhi's Assassin a 'Patriot'

"People calling [Nathuram Godse] a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a fitting reply in the election," BJP's Bhopal candidate said about the convicted killer.

New Delhi: BJP candidate and terror-accused Pragya SinghThakur on Thursday called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a ‘patriot’.

“Godse was a deshbhakt, 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,” Pragya Thakur told reporters while campaigning in Agar Malwa in Madhya Pradesh.

Thakur said this in response to a question over actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s remarks that free India’s first extremist was a Hindu, a reference to Godse.

Godse, an activist of the Hindu Mahasabha and a close associate of Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar, was convicted and executed for the January 30, 1948 assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

As a political storm erupted, the BJP tried to distance itself from its Bhopal candidate’s remarks. Condemning Thakur’s praise for Godse, it asked her to tender a public apology.

Also read: You Can Shoot an Effigy, But What Do You Do With the Man?

“We completely disagree with her statement with regard to Mahatma Gandhi. We strongly condemn this statement. The party will seek clarification from her as to why she gave this. It would be proper for her to seek and tender a public apology for her objectionable statement,” BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said in a statement.

The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP said, “The BJP does not agree with her statement. The party will talk to her under what circumstances she gave the statement.”

State BJP media cell in charge Lokendra Parashar told PTI: “One who killed Mahatma Gandhi can’t be a deshbhakt.

Also read: Why Was Mahatma Gandhi Killed?

This is not Thakur’s first controversial statement; she previously claimed that Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief  Hemant Karkare, who was killed by Pakistani terrorists during the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, died as she had cursed him after her arrest in Malegaon blast case. The resulting outcry prompted her to “withdraw” the remark.

She also claimed that drinking gau mutra cured her cancer, despite actually having undergone a mastectomy.

“I was a patient of cancer and I cured myself by consuming gau mutra and panchgavya mixed Ayurvedic herbs,” she had told India Today TV. 

Thakur was in Agar Malwa for a roadshow in support of Mahendra Solanki, the BJP candidate from the Dewas Lok Sabha seat.

Earlier in February this year, members of the Hindu Mahasabha in Aligarh had shot bullets into an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi in a re-enactment of the assassination.

Pooja Shakun Pandey, leader of the Mahasabha, shooting an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi.

Political reactions

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told The Hindu, “They are trying to make a hair-splitting distinction between a terrorist and assassin. The point is not the terminology. The fact remains a fanatic Hindu murdered the Mahatma, which was the first act of political murder post independence.”

The Congress alleged that insulting martyrs is in the “BJP DNA” and demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The opposition party also asked Modi to punish Thakur for her remarks.

“It is clear, the BJP people are the descendants of Godse. BJP people say Godse was a patriot and martyr Hemant Karkare was a traitor. Culture of violence and insulting martyrs is the DNA of the BJP,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

Also read: Play Glorifying Gandhi Killer Godse Triggers Controversy at BHU

“Modi-Amit Shah ji‘s favourite BJP leader, Pragya Thakur once again insulted the whole nation by calling Gandhi’s killer, Nathuram Godse ‘a true patriot’,” he said in a statement.

The BJP, through its leaders, is repeatedly launching “malicious attacks” on the Father of the Nation’s thinking, path and ideology, Surjewala alleged. “This is a conspiracy to insult Gandhian principles. This is an unforgivable crime which the country will not forgive,” he said.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi stated that this is not just the ‘lunatic fringe’ at work.

The NCP also attacked the BJP over the remark, saying people can now see the “real face” of the Amit Shah-led party.

Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil wrote on Twitter:

NCP general secretary Jitendra Awhad alleged that Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, belongs to the same fraternity as “terrorist” Godse.

“Modi had bowed before Mahatma Gandhi’s statue before the entire world. Now he should tell not only the country, but the world if Godse was a patriot,” Awhad said.

(With inputs from PTI)