Election in Bhopal is over, but Congress's Digvijaya Singh today said his opponent Pragya Singh Thakur's statement glorifying Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, calls for an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
"Modi ji, Amit Shah ji and the state BJP should give their statements and apologise to the nation. I condemn this statement, Nathuram Godse was a killer, glorifying him is not patriotism, it is sedition," the 72-year-old had said.
His use of the word sedition is also seen as a dig at the BJP, which has come under opposition criticism for liberal use of the British-era law against students like Kanhaiya Kumar. In its manifesto, the Congress said if it comes to power, it would do away with the law - a promise the BJP said was evidence that the party does not care about national security.
PM Modi and Amit Shah had endorsed the fielding of Pragya Thakur, an accused in Malegaon blasts, days after she joined the BJP. Both had denounced Digvijaya Singh, who coined the term "Hindu terror" and listed cases like Malegaon blasts and Samjhauta Express attack under it, due to the alleged involvement of right-wing activists.
But while most of the right-wing activists have been released, a debate over the matter started after Pragya Thakur's candidature. Earlier this week, actor-politician Kamal Hassan weighed in, saying "Godse, the first extremist of independent India, was a Hindu".
"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 fitting reply in the election," Pragya Thakur told reporters today, triggering furious responses from the opposition.
The Congress said it is now clear that the BJP were "descendants of Godse". "They have attacked Karkare, who sacrificed his life and called him anti national," said Congress's Randeep Surjewala.
Condemning Pragya Singh's comments, the BJP said she should apologise. "BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement," party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.
But the Congress also criticised that, saying it was the BJP's policy in such cases to issue statements demanding apology by junior leaders.
"This is not a 'lunatic fringe' and is definitely not her "personal opinion", it is the BJP standing by Independent India's first terrorist. In few years, Sri Sri Godse will also be recommended with a Bharat Ratna," Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), said.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's son KT Rama Rao also condemned Pragya Thakur's statement saying, "No matter what politics you affiliate with, what ideology you espouse; there are some lines that you just don't cross".
"I take pride in being called an anti-national when a Hindu fanatic who gunned down Gandhi ji is hailed as a nationalist. Aisi nationalism aur desh bhakti humaray bas ki naheen. Yeh aapko Mubarak," tweeted former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.