“Nathuram Godseji deshbhakt the, hai, aur rahenge… unko aatankwadi kahne wale log swayam ki gireban me jhaank kar dekhe… chunav mein aise logon ko jawab de diya jayega (Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot… those who call him a terrorist should look within… they will get a reply in this election),” she told ANI, during a roadshow in Agar town.
#WATCH BJP Bhopal Lok Sabha Candidate Pragya Singh Thakur says ‘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 pic.twitter.com/4swldCCaHK
— ANI (@ANI) May 16, 2019
Thakur was responding to a question on actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s remark that “independent India’s first extremist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse”.
The BJP rushed to condemn her statement and asked her to tender a public apology. In a statement to ANI in the evening, Thakur refrained from issuing an apology. “Apne sangathan BJP mein nishtha rakhti hoon, uski karyakarta hoon, aur party ki line meri line hai (I have faith in the BJP, I am a party worker, the party line is my line),” she said.
But later at night, Thakur released a video statement apologising for her “personal remark”. “I respect Mahatma Gandhi, his contribution to the country cannot be forgotten. If my statement has hurt anyone, I apologise for it,” she said. Saying that her intention was not to hurt anyone, she claimed that she had been misquoted.
BJP’s Pragya Thakur apologises for calling Godse ‘deshbhakt’
Senior BJP leader in charge of Madhya Pradesh, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, told The Indian Express that she had retracted her statement and apologised. He said she had made the statement in her “personal capacity”, and called her “inexperienced”.
Earlier, condemning her remarks, BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao, in a statement, said: “We completely disagree with her statement with regard to Mahatma Gandhi. We strongly condemn this statement. The party will seek clarification from her as to why she gave this. It would be proper for her to seek and tender a public apology for her objectionable statement.”
Also Read | Retracing Nathuram Godse’s journey
Last month, Thakur had said that former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare was killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as she had cursed him after her arrest in the Malegaon blast case. The party later asked her to retract her statement.
In another controversial statement, she had bragged about climbing atop the Babri Masjid in 1992 to demolish it. She did not offer any apology for this remark, for which an FIR was registered against her and the Election Commission banned her from campaigning for 72 hours.
Targeting the BJP over Thakur’s remarks, the Congress on Thursday demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “It is clear, BJP people are the descendants of Godse. BJP people say Godse was a patriot and martyr Hemant Karkare was a traitor. Culture of violence and insulting martyrs is the DNA of the BJP,” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said at a press conference.
“This is a conspiracy to insult Gandhian principles. This is an unforgivable crime which the country will not forgive… If Modiji has some wisdom, he should punish Pragya Thakur and apologise to the country,” he said.
“Distancing yourself from your candidate is not enough. Nationalistic luminaries of the BJP, have the guts to spell out your stand,” tweeted AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“The truth about where RSS-BJP stands on terror gets clearer all the time. A senior minister in Modi’s cabinet said Godse was not a terrorist, now terror-accused Pragya Thakur calls the murderer of Gandhiji a ‘deshbhakt’. The BJP remains inspired by the killers of the Mahatma,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
“The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was an act of terror… If his killer is a patriot, then what about Gandhi? It is a reflection of the communal-fascist ideology of the BJP and RSS,” said senior CPI leader D Raja.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has sought a factual report from the Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer by Friday.
Thakur was campaigning in Agar town for Mahendra Solanki, the party’s candidate from Dewas and a former judge. While she did not make any speech, she attended a roadshow. On Wednesday too, she did not address any rally, but attended a roadshow in Ashta.
Thakur had been advised to lie low after campaigning for Bhopal ended on May 10. While the state BJP leadership indicated that her campaign over the last two days did not have official sanction, Solanki told The Indian Express on Wednesday that the roadshow in Ashta was part of the official party programme.
On Thursday, Solanki refused to comment on whether her latest statement would harm his chances. “I was meeting people. I haven’t heard what she said,’’ he said.