After Pragya Singh Thakur, more BJP leaders have come out with remarks in support of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse, becoming a huge problem for the party just before the last round of voting for the national election on Sunday. Two parliamentarians - Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde and Nalin Kumar Kateel -- have retracted their Twitter posts but BJP president Amit Shah has asked them for an explanation within 10 days and has said they will face the disciplinary committee.
Nalin Kumar Kateel, a BJP MP from Karnataka, compared Godse with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who has been a chief target of the ruling party in the national election campaign nearly 30 years after his assassination. Another Karnataka parliamentarian, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde, tweeted "seven decades later, the condemned were being heard".
Both the tweets have vanished from their Twitter timelines now. Anant Kumar Hegde put out a message claiming his account had been breached.
"Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is more cruel in this??" - Nalin Kateel tweeted on Thursday, amid a raging controversy over Pragya Thakur's comment glorifying Godse as a patriot.
Rajiv Gandhi has also been named in the same breath as 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, who was executed in 2012.
Mr Kateel, a two-time BJP parliamentarian, is contesting the election from Dakshina Kannada.
His colleague Anant Kumar Hegde, notorious for controversial remarks, had tweeted: "Am glad that 7 decades later today's generation debates in a changed perceptional environment and gives good scope for the condemned to be heard upon. #NathuramGodse would have finally felt happy with this debate!"
Shortly afterwards, he deleted the tweet and posted: "My Twitter account has been breached twice in the past one week and certain tweets have been posted on my timeline which has been discarded and deleted. Regret the posts attributed to me."
The BJP has repeatedly raised Rajiv Gandhi, the father of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, while targeting the opposition party over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. Nearly 3,000 were killed in the three-day carnage.
Mr Kateel tweeted as Pragya Thakur, the BJP candidate from Bhopal, faced massive condemnation for her comment on Godse: "Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot), is a 'deshbhakt' and will remain a 'deshbhakt'. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a fitting reply in the election."
Amid spiraling criticism, the BJP said: "We completely disagree with the statement made by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur about the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi ji. We strongly condemn this particular statement. The party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement."
Despite her party disowning the comment, Pragya Thakur remained defiant and stopped short of an apology twice. "The party's line is my line," she said at first. Then she said the comment was her personal view and expressed regret for hurting sentiment.
She finally apologized on Twitter late last night. "I apologise to the people of the country for my statements on Nathuram Godse. My statement was absolutely wrong. I have huge respect for the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi," she tweeted in Hindi.
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