Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said that he feels "extremely hurt" whenever someone criticises Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and that he once confronted a "big" Opposition leader asking him to study Savarkar properly before denouncing him.
Mr Gadkari, who has practically grown up in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakhas, currently represents the Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency where the RSS headquarters is located.
"I feel extremely hurt when someone says something wrong about Savarkar. Savarkar and Shivaji Maharaj are revered by all of us. We are proud of Savarkar," said Mr Gadkari at a felicitation function of senior RSS worker Arvind Khandekar.
"I once met a big political leader who had said something bad about Savarkar. I told him not to badmouth Savarkar and asked him to first study him and the RSS properly," he said.
Sharing further about the meeting with the "leader", Mr Gadkari said: "He asked me, are you an RSS worker? I said yes. Then he replied "you are good" and I said if I am good then both the RSS and Savarkar are good. And if Savarkar and RSS are bad then I too am not good. I asked him to study first, then criticise."
The senior BJP leader added that one should initiate dialogue with opponents and tell the truth to change their negative perceptions as well as hearts.
In December last year, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi kicked up a controversy when he said he would not apologise for his "rape in India" remark as his name was not "Rahul Savarkar".
Reacting to Mr Gandhi's statement, Savarkar''s grandson Ranjit said that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray should beat Gandhi publicly for ''insulting'' his grandfather.