After steadfastly sticking to his guns since the controversy erupted over his alleged derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shripal Sabnis, author and president of the 89th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, on Tuesday expressed “regret,” but stopped short of tendering an unconditional apology.
“I have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 5 expressing regret over some remarks I made. After my comment, several people, including close friends, called up and told me that my use of language against the Prime Minister was not appropriate. Therefore, I wrote a letter to the PM and expressed my regret to him,” Sabnis told this paper immediately after holding a press conference where he read out the text of the letter. He, however, did not take questions from the reporters.
The author also clarified that he had expressed regret and not tendered a public apology as some were demanding. “If some people construe it as an apology, so be it. But it is not an apology. It is a regret… I will continue to stand my ground vis-a-vis what I had said…” he said.
Sabnis has maintained that he had praised Modi for making efforts to bring peace with neighbours like Pakistan, but had said he did not “agree with the Modi who was the chief minister of Gujarat”.
The author said matter should end after his regret and hoped that the literary meet would be held in a congenial atmosphere. “The issue I presume is settled as even BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari has said so,” he said.
Bhandari, though, said the regret expressed by Sabnis was half-hearted. “It does not seem to be an apology. But BJP hopes Sabnis will not make a controversial comment hereafter, especially from the platform of the literary meet. As the president of the Sammelan, it will be his responsibility to ensure that there is no new controversy generated through his views.”
Sabnis’s change of heart came on Tuesday morning after P D Patil, chairman of the Dr D Y Patil Vidyapeeth Society, which is organising the Sammelan, met him at his residence. “Sabnis today verbally expressed regret in front of the live media after we, the organisers, pleaded with him. He had already expressed regret on January 5. But we requested him to let the world know that he had expressed regret. We convinced him that it was important that the grand Sammelan was held in a peaceful atmosphere because it was celebration of the Marathi language and Marathi literature. Sabnis then agreed to read out the text of his letter,” Patil said, adding that the controversy is as good as over.