In a decision that could spark nationwide outrage, the BJP government in Goa has dropped Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 from the list of public holidays.
Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, has not been marked as a holiday in the current year's calender, released on Saturday.
The decision has triggered strong reactions from a section of legislators in the state.
Interestingly, Gandhi Jayanti disappeared from the list of commercial and industrial holidays released on a day when the Mahatma's statue was unveiled in London.
Gandhi Jayanti has been celebrated all over the country for decades, with the entire nation gratefully recalling the services of the Mahatma, who led the struggle against the British rule through non-violent means.
Though the government is yet to formally clarify the rationale behind the decision, a senior official from the General Administration Department said it had the approval of government.
Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar was not available for comment on the issue.
Independent opposition legislator Vijay Sardesai said it was all the more surprising that dropping of the Gandhi Jayanti came just the day after the Mahatma's statue was unveiled at Parliament Square in London.
"It is strange that back in the country his birthday is being dropped from the list of holidays. Is this nationalism or the BJP's sense of civility?" he said.
The list which was released on Saturday has retained all other holidays.
Condemning the decision, Goa's lone Rajya Sabha member Shantaram Naik said BJP leaders claim they hold Gandhi in high esteem and started worshipping him in recent times, but actually denigrate him on every available opportunity.
Naik alleged that in the name of 'Swachh Bharat', BJP perhaps wants to obliterate the name of Gandhi in whatever form it exists, adding that he would raise the issue in Rajya Sabha tomorrow.
When Manohar Parrikar was chief minister of Goa, the government had sought to scrap a few public holidays, including Gandhi Jayanti, Good Friday and Old Goa Feast, but had to give up the move due to public outcry.
"You cannot disrespect the Father of the Nation," said North Goa BJP president Michael Lobo, who is also a legislator from coastal constituency Calangute.
Lobo's dissent gave the opposition Congress ammo to shoot at the government.
"This seems like it is just the beginning. Hope the government does not have holidays on Nathuram Godse's birth anniversary," Congress leader Durgadas Kamat said.
BJP spokespersons shied away from commenting on the decision while the party's ideological mentor, the RSS, refused to be drawn into the controversy.
The RSS said the number of holidays should come down to improve work culture in the country. "I don't know the reasons for this decision. We will see why it happened. But, according to a survey, people in India hardly work for 150-155 days a year on account of holidays," RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi said in Nagpur.
The Goa government has yet to clarify the rationale behind the decision, a senior official said.