The Congress and the BJP engaged in a slugfest on Wednesday over commemorating the martyrdom of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, with both parties accusing each other of “appropriating” national icons for political gains.
Competitive politics over claiming the legacies of national leaders has turned bitter since the NDA government assumed power at the Centre.
While the BJP has sought to appropriate Dalit stalwart BR Ambedkar, Vallabhbhai Patel and now Bhagat Singh, the Congress often questions the role of leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, in the freedom struggle.
The BJP has drawn up a three-day plan to commemorate the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev who were hanged on March 23, 1931 in the Lahore jail.
The ruling party has also decided to celebrate Holi on Thursday by organising public receptions, where homage will be paid to Bhagat Singh by singing ‘Range De Basanti Chola’, a song associated with his martyrdom.
To keep up the attack on Congress, the ruling party has asked its workers to burn the effigy of former Union minister Shashi Tharoor for allegedly equating JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar with Bhagat Singh.
The Congress was quick to hit back. Party spokesperson Shobha Oza pointed out to a decision by the Congress government in Haryana to name the Chandigarh international airport after Bhagat Singh. “But that was overturned by the BJP government,” she said. “The state government has demanded the airport be named after RSS pracharak Mangal Sein.”
Oza said Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the international airport in 2015 but remained silent on the issue. “This is true face and nationalism of BJP. Replace the name of a martyr with that of an RSS pracharak,” she said.
In another development, a tweet on the opposition party’s Twitter handle called RSS ideologue VD Savarkar a ‘traitor’.
Juxtaposing a picture of Bhagat Singh and Savarkar, titled “Martyrs and Traitors”, another tweet cited the excerpt of the petitions Savarkar and Bhagat Singh wrote to the British authorities from jail. “Bhagat Singh dared the British Raj to send the executioners. BJP-RSS ideologue Savarkar begged for his own release,” said another tweet.
The BJP’s ally in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), demanded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, for Bhagat Singh. Punjab’s deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said he will soon write to the Centre in this regard.