In a huge controversy over comments by BJP leaders glorifying Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse, including by Pragya Singh Thakur, who called him a “deshbhakt (patriot)”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told television channel News24 today: “I will never be able to forgive them for insulting Bapu.”
On Thursday, Pragya Thakur had said: “Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot), is a ‘deshbhakt’ and will remain a ‘deshbhakt’. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a fitting reply in the election.”
The BJP tweeted PM Modi as saying in an interview to the channel: “The comments on Gandhi and Godse are deplorable, disgusting and are not language fit for civilised society. Those who say such things should think 100 times. It is a different issue that they have apologised, but I will not be able to forgive them from my heart.”
Nalin Kumar Kateel, a BJP lawmaker, compared Godse with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. “Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is more cruel in this??”
Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde, BJP candidate from Karnataka, named Rajiv Gandhi named in the same breath as 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, who was executed in 2012 for his role in one of the worst terror attacks in India. “Am glad that 7 decades later today's generation debates in a changed perceptional environment and gives good scope for the condemned to be heard upon. #NathuramGodse would have finally felt happy with this debate!" Shortly afterwards, he deleted the tweet and posted: “My Twitter account has been breached twice in the past one week and certain tweets have been posted on my timeline which has been discarded and deleted. Regret the posts attributed to me.” Kateel too deleted the tweet.
Despite her party disowning the comment, Pragya Thakur remained defiant and stopped short of an apology twice. “The party's line is my line,” she said at first. Then she said the comment was her personal view and expressed regret for hurting sentiment. Later she said: “I apologise to the people of the country for my statements on Nathuram Godse. My statement was absolutely wrong. I have huge respect for the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.”
Amid spiralling criticism, the BJP said, “We completely disagree with the statement by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur about the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi ji. We strongly condemn this particular statement. The party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement."
Later, at a press conference, party chief Amit Shah said the matter was with the disciplinary committee which would decide the action to be taken against those who had made the statements.