Amid the raging controversy over BJP leader Pragya Singh Thakur's remarks glorifying Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse, party president Amit Shah defended fielding her as the BJP's candidate from Bhopal in the ongoing national election and said her candidature is a "satyagraha" against a fake "saffron terror" case. Pragya Thakur, who calls herself "Sadhvi", is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts - in which six people were killed and more than 100 injured - and is out on bail.
"Pragya Thakur's candidature is a satyagraha against a fake case of fake bhagwa (saffron) terror. I want to ask Congress, some people were earlier arrested in 'Samjhauta Express' who were related to LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba). A fake case of "bhagwa terror" was made in which accused have been acquitted," Mr Shah said during a press conference that was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday evening.
Pragya Thakur had on Thursday said, "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."
After the party distanced itself from her comments, Pragya Thakur had remained defiant and stopped short of an apology twice. She finally apologised on Twitter late Thursday night.
On Friday, Amit Shah said in a series of tweets that Pragya Thakur, along with Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde and lawmaker Nalin Kumar Kateel - the two other leaders who posted controversial comments - have been asked for an explanation within 10 days. Appropriate action will be taken against them after their replies, Mr Shah had said.
PM Modi, in strong condemnation of Pragya Thakur, told television channel News24: "I will never be able to forgive them for insulting Bapu."
"The comments on Gandhi and Godse are deplorable, disgusting and are not language fit for civilised society. Those who say such things should think 100 times. It is a different issue that they have apologized, but I will not be able to forgive them from my heart," PM Modi said.
Soon after joining the BJP, Pragya Thakur had made controversial remarks like "cursing" police officer Hemant Karkare, who died fighting terrorists during the 26/11 attacks, and bragging about participating in the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
She was asked by her party to dial down her statements and even banned temporarily from campaigning by the Election Commission.
Pragya Thakur is contesting the Lok Sabha polls against former chief minister and Congress candidate Digvijay Singh.
(With inputs from ANI)