Opposition leader Siddaramaiah on Friday took potshots at the BJP, saying, “Why Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar, give it to Nathuram Godse…’’ The Congress has been sharply critical of the BJP for promising to confer the Bharat Ratna on Savarkar, in its Maharashtra manifesto.
The BJP’s ‘Ratna for Savarkar’ pledge has drawn disbelief and anger in some quarters as Savarkar, a nationalist Hindu Mahasabha leader who coined the word Hindutva, had faced trial in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, he was later acquitted. Leaders point out that the promise comes during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Mahatma, making it even more ironic.
There is also widespread dismay that the saffron party has appropriated the country’s highest civilian honour and made it part of their manifesto, as Savarkar hailed from the state. And, the BJP hopes to garner political-ideological dividends in the poll-bound state. The BJP credits him for codifying the political philosophy of Hindutva.
KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao said, “The Veer Savarkar issue is controversial. He did not fight the British, after his abject clemency petition was accepted. He was part of the inner circle in the conspiracy to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi.”
Savarkar, who was lodged in the dreaded Cellular Jail, Andaman, had appealed to the British for clemency, and was released on the condition that he would maintain a low profile and not resume political activities. While Congress is trying to highlight this compromise, the BJP is projecting Savarkar as a freedom fighter.
Former PM Manmohan Singh, though, took a more centrist view, saying that the Congress was not against Savarkar, but the ideology of Hindutva that he stood for. He also pointed out that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had also praised Savarkar and released a stamp commemorating him.
While state Congress leaders kept up their attack, BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel slammed them, saying the party needs “some education”.
BJP MLC Ravi Kumar said, “Savarkar should be conferred the Bharat Ratna. If they condemn him, it is like condemning freedom fighters. Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao should read up history and then talk…”