The BJP's Maharashtra unit on Tuesday proposed Bharat Ratna award for Hindutva idealogue V D Savarkar as part of party's election manifesto, evoking criticism from the Opposition with the Congress asserting that if such a demand is accepted then "God save this country".
The manifesto for Maharashtra assembly elections, scheduled for October 21, said the party will ask the NDA government at the Centre to confer India's highest civilian award on Savarkar and social reformers Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule.
Opposition parties launched a strong attack over the demand for Bharat Ratna to Savarkar with the Congress saying that Savarkar had faced criminal trial in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, even though he was later acquitted.
"In a country where Mahatma Gandhi is being made to commit suicide in examinations, anything is possible," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said at a press conference, referring to the row over a question in the assessment examination of some schools in Gujarat recently.
Tiwari also cited a media report that claimed that the Kapur Commission, formed in 1966 to look into the conspiracy to murder Gandhi, also concluded that facts pointed towards a "conspiracy to murder (Gandhi) by Savarkar and his group".
"If on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, this government considers any such thing (giving Bharat Ratna to Savarkar), than all I want to say is that God save this country," the Congress spokesperson said.
Countering the Congress attack, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said it is a "statement of intent" from the BJP as all great sons and daughters of the nation should be recognised for their contribution to its independence.
"The Congress in its rule has ensured that only one family got the credit", he alleged.
Hitting out at the BJP over its Maharashtra unit demand, the Communist Party of India said the ruling party may even propose the honour for Mahatma Gandhi's killer Nathuram Godse.
"This is the biggest irony of our times that while we are all celebrating the birth centenary of Gandhi ji, the BJP is seeking Bharat Ratna to Savarkar, who was an accused in his assassination case," CPI general secretary D Raja said in Mumbai.
"The day may not be far for BJP to demand Bharat Ratna for Gandhiji's assassin Nathuram Godse. This is part of their agenda," the CPI leader said.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asadduddin Owaisi also slammed the demand as he took to Twitter to criticise Savarkar.
Tagging a media report on Maharashtra BJP's demand of Bharat Ratna for Savarkar, Owaisi said on Twitter: "Some gyaan about this Anmol Ratan: 1. Implicated by Jeevan Lal Commission of Inquiry on Gandhi's assassination. 2. Advocated the use of rape as a political tool. 3. Criticised Shivaji for not using rape as a political tool. 4. Called himself the British's 'most obedient servant'."
Savarkar was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha.