Looking to send a strong signal that controversial comments on Mahatma Gandhi will not be tolerated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that though party candidate for Bhopal Pragya Thakur has apologised, he would find it difficult to forgive her and others who have spoken out of turn.
“Whatever has been said about Mahatma Gandhi is terribly (bhayankar) wrong. It is despicable. Such language is not acceptable in civil society. Those who do so will have to think 100 times. They have apologised, it is a different matter. But I will not be able to forgive from my heart (Main apne mann se maaf nahin kar paoonga),” Modi told a TV channel.
The PM’s intervention, intended to contain the backlash against the sadhvi’s comments that Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse was a “patriot” and similar comments by BJP MPs Anant Hegde and Nalin Kateel, came after he had addressed a rally in MP as campaigning for the final 59 LS seats ended.
BJP chief Amit Shah also said the comments were unacceptable even as he defended the decision to field Thakur from Bhopal against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, saying: “This was our satyagraha (protest) against the term Hindu terror that had been used by Congress.”
Shah also said on Twitter that “they have withdrawn their statements and also apologised. However, their remarks are against the decorum of public life and BJP and also against the party's ideology. Taking serious note of their remarks, the party has decided to send them to the disciplinary committee.”
Shah’s comments came at a press conference in New Delhi where the Prime Minister was also present but did not answer media queries. Thakur, who had attracted controversy earlier for her comments on 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare and on her alleged participation in Babri Masjid’s demolition, left the BJP brass squirming after her remarks on the Mahatma. She had been repeatedly asked to watch her words even as the party did not hesitate to use her as a campaigner after the Bhopal election closed. BJP leaders pointed out that the comments running down Gandhi and praising his killer ran completely counter to the emphasis the government has placed on campaigns dedicated to the “Father of the Nation”. Last year, the government had launched two-year-long celebrations to mark his 150th birth anniversary.