BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur on Thursday kicked up a major row by describing Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse as a "deshbhakt" (patriot), a comment which her party immediately condemned and asked her to apologise for her remark.
The comment by Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, provided fodder to the Opposition Congress to target the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"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," Pragya told reporters in Bhopal.
She was commenting on the recent remarks of actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) President Kamal Haasan who called Godse the first Hindu terrorist of Independent India. "The first terrorist post-Independence was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu. It started from there. He killed Mahatma Gandhi," Haasan had said.
Unhappy over Thakur's controversial comment, the BJP immediately condemned it.
"We completely disagree with the statement she has made with regard to Mahatma Gandhi and we strongly condemn it. The BJP will ask her why she made such a statement. It would be proper for her to tender a public apology for this objectionable statement," BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao told reporters at the party headquarters in Delhi.
BJP media cell in-charge for Madhya Pradesh Lokendra Parashar said: "The BJP does not agree with her statement. The party will find out about the circumstances in which she made this statement. One who killed Mahatma Gandhi can't be a patriot."
Slamming the BJP for Thakur's comment, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala called it an "insult to the country" and said "India's soul is under attack from the successors of Nathuram Godse, the BJP ruling dispensation."
He said the "BJP leaders are describing the murderer of the Father of the Nation as a true nationalist. This is an insult to the country and an attack on Gandhi's ideology."
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who is pitted against Thakur in Bhopal, termed her comment as "sedition" and demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
It is not the first controversy that Thakur has been embroiled in. She had earlier said that Maharashtra ATS officer Hemant Karkare, who had interrogated her in the Malegaon case and was later killed during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, had died due to her "curse."
Thakur had also said that she was happy for her role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Her comments had earned her a 72-hour-long ban on campaigning ahead of polling for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat on May 12.