Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today ripped into BJP leader Pragya Singh Thakur's comment that Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse was a "deshbhakt (patriot)" and said he "would not tolerate such remarks".
"It is condemnable. What action the party takes is their internal matter. But as far as we are concerned, there is no question of tolerating such a statement," Nitish Kumar was quoted by news agency ANI.
"Bharatiya Janta Party should think about such comments. We condemn such remarks," he said in what many interpreted as a message for ally BJP, which is yet to take any action against its controversial candidate.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on BJP Sadhvi Pragya Singh's statement 'Godse is patriot': It is condemnable. What action the party takes is their internal matter. We should not tolerate such a statement. pic.twitter.com/QvCwALtRdT— ANI (@ANI) May 19, 2019
Pragya Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts and the BJP candidate from Bhopal, made the widely denounced comment in response to a remark by actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, who had said, "Godse, the first extremist of independent India, was a Hindu".
Pragya Thakur told a reporter: "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."
The words provoked an avalanche of criticism from the opposition and forced the BJP into damage control mode, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi weighing in.
After stopping short of an apology twice despite her party's condemnation, Pragya Thakur finally tweeted late on Thursday 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".
That was not enough, fumed several opposition leaders, prodding the BJP to punish its candidate and other BJP leaders who had apparently followed her lead in praising Godse.
The Prime Minister told news channel News24 that though these leaders had apologized, he could "never forgive" them for "insulting Bapu".
Later the same day, with PM Modi by his side, BJP president Amit Shah defended fielding Pragya Thakur in the election saying "her candidature is a 'satyagraha' against a fake case of saffron terror."
The BJP accuses the Congress of slapping false charges of Pragya Thakur in the name of "saffron terror" over the 2008 Malegaon blasts, in which six people were killed and over 100 injured.
RJD leader Rabri Devi said in a stinging attack on Nitish Kumar: "If you really have a problem with Pragya, then you should have quit the government and ended ties with the BJP."
Throughout her campaign, Pragya Thakur has kept up a steady stream of controversies, notably with her comments on "cursing" 26/11 hero Hemant Karkare and about participating in the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.