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Amit Shah describing Mahatma Gandhi as a "chatur baniya" on Saturday triggered a political row with Congress calling the BJP chief "a trader of power" and demanding an apology from him as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi for insulting the father of the nation.
While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed the comments "uncalled for and unethical", CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy demanded that Shah seeks an apology for making the "derogatory" remarks.
Former CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat also hit out at Shah, saying his remark reveals "the contempt the BJP- RSS has for Gandhiji".
"Rather than fighting casteism, they (BJP) identified even the father of the nation with his caste. This shows the character and ideology of the ruling party and its president. Where will these people take the country?" party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked.
"We demand that Amit Shah, BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise to the country, the families of freedom fighters and every citizen for insulting the freedom movement... And the father of the nation," he said.
The BJP chief had yesterday referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a "chatur baniya", a reference to the mercantile caste to which he was born, who had rightly advised dissolution of the Congress after Independence.
Addressing a select audience of "prominent citizens" here yesterday evening, Shah also said the Congress was not rooted in any ideology or principles and was sort of a "special purpose vehicle" to secure freedom.
In a hard-hitting response, Surjewala alleged that "Amit Shah, who himself is a trader of power, is today saying that the freedom movement was a business model. But in reality, before independence, Britishers used RSS and Hindu Mahasabha as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for partition of the country."
He also said, "similarly, today BJP is acting as a SPV for few corporates for taking care of their business interests."
According to the Congress leader, Shah's remarks were "an insult to freedom fighters, their sacrifices and also to Gandhi".
CPI national secretary D Raja said Shah, being president of the ruling party, should be aware of the language to be used while describing a leader of Gandhi's stature.
"We have no problem when he criticises Congress or other opposition parties (during political discourse). But dragging Mahatma Gandhi's name, using such a language is denigrating Gandhi," Raja said.
According to Karat, Shah only revealed the BJP's actual opinion about Gandhi.