The debate over Veer Savarkar heated up ahead of the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly Elections. His grandson Ranjeet Savarkar said that even former PM Indira Gandhi was a ‘follower’.
He told ANI: “Indira Gandhi honoured Veer Savarkar. I strongly feel she was his follower because she brought Pakistan to its knees, strengthened the army and foreign relations, she also did nuclear tests.”
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said at a press conference in Mumbai that the Congress is not in favour of what "Savarkar-ji patronised and stood for", as he spoke about his party's opposition to the demand for Bharat Ratna for him.Singh, however, noted that Indira Gandhi as prime minister had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar's memory.
The BJP on Thursday stepped up its campaign to highlight Veer Savarkar's contribution to India's freedom movement, with its president Amit Shah asserting that had it not been for the Hindutva ideologue the first war of independence in 1857 would have been merely regarded as a revolt.
While Shah paid glowing tributes to Savarkar at an event in Varanasi and stressed on the need to rewrite history from India's point of view, many BJP leaders joined the saffron campaign to eulogise him after the party in its manifesto for Maharashtra Assembly election sought Bharat Ratna for him.
Savarkar has been a polarising figure as the Congress and other opposition parties have long shunned him for his alleged link to Mahatma Gandhi's assassin. He was acquitted of the charge but his hardline Hindutva views long made him a pariah for the secular establishment.Congress leader Manish Tewari hit out at the BJP for considering Savarkar for the award.
"Why does NDA/BJP Government want to confer Bharath Ratna on Savarkar why not Godse? Former was only chargesheeted and later acquitted for assassination of Gandhi while latter was convicted and hanged. On his 150 th Anniv if you want to defile his memory then go the whole nine yards?" he said in a tweet.
In 2003, the NDA government’s wanted to put up a picture of Savarkar in parliament. Then speaker and Sena leader Manohar Joshi had made the demand but was met with vehemence from Congress.
While Shivraj Patil (Cong Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha) opposed the idea, Somnath Chatterjee (CPIM), Congress' chief whip in Rajya Sabha Pranab Mukherjee and CPI's J Chittaranjan remained silent on the issue.
Yet when Sonia Gandhi, wrote to then President Kalam to review his decision to unveil Savarkar's potrait, the BJP hit back with Indira Gandhi's adulation for the former freedom fighter.
More embarrassingly from Sonia, she learned that senior colleagues like Shivraj Patil and Pranab Mukherjee had agreed to the proposal and she slammed them at a meeting of the Congress PAC in Parliament.
Several party leaders of the Congress, particularly those from the Maharashtra were also opposed to the vilification, knowing fully well how big he was in the state.
BJP vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe sought to know from Singh what aspects of Savarkar's ideology he was opposed to."Manmohan Singh should come clean on what aspects of Savarkar's philosophy he is opposed to. He (Savarkar) is for nationalism, social justice, equality. He is also for scientific temper and fight against superstition.
The entire value system mooted by Savarkar was very pragmatic and was very forward-looking. So there is absolutely no reason to oppose Savarkar," he told reporters.Inaugurating a two-day international seminar on 'Guptvanshak-Veer: Skandagupta Vikramaditya' at Banaras Hindu University, Shah said, "Had it not been for Veer Savarkar, the 1857 'kranti' (revolt) would not have become history and we would have been seeing it from the British point of view."
"It was Savarkar who gave the name First War of Independence to the 1857 'kranti', otherwise, our children would have known it as a revolt," he added.Calling Savarkar a "great patriot", BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said he ensured that the 1857 rebellion was known as the first war of Indian independence.
"Otherwise it would have been remained a sepoy mutiny as conspired by Britishers.... later by Leftist intellectuals," he tweeted.BJP's IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya highlighted comments of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi praising Savarkar to target the Congress over its opposition to the demand for giving him Bharat Ratna.
"The Congress has long abandoned the values of M K Gandhi but what about Indira Gandhi, one of their own, who too hailed Veer Savarkar as a great revolutionary? Has the Congress given up on her too just because it doesn't suit the narrow, bigoted politics of their current leadership?" he tweeted.
He quoted Indira Gandhi as having said that "Savarkar's daring defiance of the British government has its own importance in the annals of our freedom movement".She had the Films Division to produce a documentary- "The great revolutionary"- on Savarkar, Malviya said.
With inputs from PTI