Mumbai: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut sparked off yet another controversy on Saturday with his statement that those opposing the awarding of the nation's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, to freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar should be jailed in the Andamans like he was; only then would they ‘realize his sacrifice and contribution to the nation’.
Naturally, the Congress, which is one of the Sena's partners in the current state government reacted sharply to Raut statement. The Congress is against conferring the highest civilian award on Savarkar, who is held in high esteem by right-wing parties. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Sachin Sawant argued that the Bharat Ratna should be given instead, to all those who suffered during the British Rule but remained unbendingly unapologetic.
Afraid of rocking the Maha Vikas Aghadi boat, the Shiv Sena immediately distanced itself from Raut's remark, after the Congress party said it was uncalled for.
The state's tourism and environment minister, Aaditya Thackeray, tried to do a balancing act to avert the potential rift that was likely to arise between the Sena and its ruling allies, the Congress and the NCP because of Raut's statement. He said Raut had expressed his personal opinion. “Our alliance with the Congress is intact. When two different ideologies come together, it is known as democracy,” Aaditya said.
But Raut’s statement was welcomed by Savarkar’s grandson Ranjit Savarkar. “I welcome Sanjay Raut's statement. In the past also, the Shiv Sena has aggressively opposed the defamation of Savarkar. I expect that it will now convince the Congress leaders not to oppose Savarkar," he said.
Taking a jibe at the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, Ranjit said, the leaders of the grand old party were “parroting what Gandhi says”. “It is very clear, Raut has dared Rahul Gandhi to go to Goa and Andaman,” Ranjit said.
Earlier this week, Raut had set off a political storm with his remarks that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had met gangster Karim Lala in Mumbai. The Congress had rebuked Raut, calling the Shiv Sena "ill-informed". Thereafter, Raut had clarified, saying he had been misquoted.
Aaditya had rushed to the senior leader's rescue even then. ''Sanjay Raut's statement was taken out of context. With the kind of respect the late Balasaheb Thackeray had for the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, I do not think there will be any unpleasant remarks from Sena workers," Aaditya had said.
Prior to this, Raut had courted controversy by saying the former MP and BJP leader Udayanraje Bhosale should provide proof of his being a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and asserted that no one owned the Maratha warrior king.
Udayanraje had rebutted Raut and dared the Sena to remove the word 'Shiv' from its name and rechristen the party 'Thackeray Sena'.