Lok Sabha elections 2019: Pragya calls Godse ‘patriot’, retracts after BJP steps in
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pragya Singh Thakur has courted controversy once again, this time for calling Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, a “deshbhakt” (patriot), and within hours apologised as both the Opposition and the BJP condemned her remark.
Singh, the BJP candidate from Bhopal, while speaking to the media after a roadshow in Agar-Malwa near Bhopal on Thursday, said, “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.”
Singh was reacting to Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) president Kamal Haasan’s recent statement calling Godse the first Hindu terrorist of independent India.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who contested from the Bhopal seat against Thakur, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah should apologise over Thakur’s remark. “I condemn the words used against the Father of the Nation. Nathuram Godse was a killer and eulogising him is not patriotism, but an anti-national act,” the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.
The BJP was in damage control mode soon after Thakur’s statement. Sources in the party aware of the development said state BJP president Rakesh Singh called up Thakur, following which she apologised.
Later, BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said, “She [Pragya Thakur] has apologised for her statement. She said she had said it by mistake.”
However, the Opposition was quick to call Thakur out. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala called it an “insult to the country” and said “India’s soul is under attack from the successors of Nathuram Godse, the BJP ruling dispensation.”
Former People Democratic Party chief and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she takes pride in being termed “anti-national” if a “Hindu fanatic” Nathuram Godse is being hailed as a nationalist.
“Nathuram Godse, who has murdered Mahatma Gandhi, is being defended by BJP’s candidate Pragya Thakur and is being called a patriot. People can now see @BJP4India ‘s real face through @SadhviPragya_MP,” Maharashtra Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Jayant Patil said on Twitter.
This is not the first time that Pragya Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that claimed six lives and injured over a 100 people and who is out on bail, has made controversial statements before and then apologised.
Soon after she was made BJP’s candidate from Bhopal, the 49-year old said that Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had died on duty during the 26-11 attacks in Mumbai, was killed due to her “curse”. She accused Karkare of torturing her while she was in custody for the Malegaon blast case.
She also claimed that she had participated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992.
Thakur’s comments had drawn notice from the election commission and she was barred from campaigning for three days. An FIR was also lodged against for her remarks over Babri Masjid.