Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for Bhopal and Malegaon-blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur on Thursday waded into the most recent controversy about Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse, which began after Kamal Haasan called him “India’s first extremist”.
“Nathuram 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 befitting reply in these elections,” she said, according to ANI.
The BJP condemned her remark on Godse and said that they will ask her for a clarification.
“BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement,” party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao was quoted as saying by ANI.
This is not the first time the BJP has had to tone down Thakur’s comments since they announced her as a candidate.
Haasan, who received a lot of abuse for his remark—a Tamil Nadu minister said his tongue should be cut off—said on Wednesday he only spoke a “historic truth”.
The controversy escalated to the point that chappals were hurled towards a vehicle from which the founder of Makkal Needhi Maiam was addressing an election meeting in the Tirupparankundram Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
Thakur’s multiple controversies
The BJP has received flak for fielding a terror-accused—the first major political party in India to do so—but the Prime Minister himself has justified it by saying that it is a symbolic answer to all those who labeled the Hindu civilisation as “terrorist”.
Thakur had said last month that former Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare died during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks because of her curse.
“Hemant Karkare falsely implicated me. He died of his karma. I told him, he will be destroyed. I told him his entire dynasty will be erased,” Thakur said.
She was forced to take back her statement and apologise, saying she is doing so as she feels “the enemies of the country were being benefited from it”.
In a statement, the BJP had said that it has always considered Karkare as a martyr and the comments made by Thakur are her personal thoughts since she underwent “years of physical and mental torture”.
On the Babri Masjid demolition, Thakur had said that she was “proud” of her participation in the demolition at Ayodhya in 1992. The Election Commission had “strongly condemned” her remarks and barred her from campaigning for 72 hours.
The Godse question
In 2013, AG Noorani wrote in Frontline that the BJP has always felt embarrassed about Godse, who had strong links to the RSS. If the reaction to Haasan’s statement and its candidate’s opinion that Gandhi’s assassin was actually a patriot are taken together, it would seem that some of this embarrassment is dissipating.
In February, a Hindu Mahasabha leader who was arrested for reenacting Gandhi’s assassination told HuffPost India that the outrage against her went against her “right to freedom of speech and expression”, a right that many political parties including the BJP have clamped down on while in power.
Every year, on 30 January, when India mourns Gandhi’s assassination, the Hindu Mahasabha celebrates his assassin, Nathuram Godse. They garland Godse’s bust and distribute sweets. This year, however, they went further and filmed a crude reenactment of Godse shooting Gandhi.
Pooja Shakun Pandey’s arrest, the article had noted, suggested that the wheel of state repression had come full-circle where some forms of extreme right-wing Hindu self-expression has been perceived as a threat to the public peace.
Speaking to HuffPost India, Chander Prakash Kaushik, President of the Hindu Mahasabha, also admitted that organisations like his were pushed to take extreme steps in order to stay relevant. “Don’t make me say it, but we need the publicity,” he said.
The Hindu Mahasabha, of which Godse was once a member, was founded in 1907, and went national in 1915, according to its website. It was banned by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel following Gandhi’s assassination.
(With PTI inputs)