While stating that the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) did not agree with Congressman Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Hindutva ideologue V. D. Savarkar, Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), remarking that its expressions of love and respect for Savarkar were “laughable” given that the BJP’s parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had no contribution towards the Indian freedom struggle.
Mr. Thackeray, whose party is in alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the State, disagreed with Mr. Gandhi’s comments on Savarkar’s mercy petitions during the British Raj even as the latter said he stood by his remarks on the Hindutva ideologue.
“We [the Shiv Sena (UBT)] have great love, respect and affection in our hearts for Veer Savarkar which no one can erase even if they try to do so. While we disagree with Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Savarkar, it is laughable that the offspring [the BJP] of those [RSS] who had no connection with the freedom movement, are claiming to love Savarkar. They have no right to speak on Veer Savarkar,” said Mr. Thackeray, speaking at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park on the occasion of the tenth death anniversary of his father, Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
Mr. Thackeray was responding to the criticism of BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, after the latter censured Mr. Gandhi’s comments on V. D. Savarkar made during the course of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The BJP and its ruling ally, the Eknath Shinde-led Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, are using Mr. Gandhi’s criticism of V. D. Savarkar as a pestle to bludgeon Mr. Thackeray’s faction – given that his son Aaditya Thackeray had recently participated in the Congress MP’s Yatra.
Justifying his decision to stay allied to the Congress, Mr. Thackeray said that his party, the Congress and others had come together to preserve this hard-won freedom that had been secured by Veer Savarkar’s sacrifices and to oppose the prevailing ‘dictatorship’ of the BJP.
“They [Mr. Fadnavis and BJP] should first question the contribution of the RSS to the freedom struggle. How many times did RSS leaders go to jail during Independence? We [Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and other parties] have come together to precisely to preserve this freedom and oppose the ‘dictatorship’ that we are heading towards…the BJP should stop asking us such questions,” Mr. Thackeray said, questioning why the BJP had not yet been able to award the Bharat Ratna to V. D. Savarkar despite being in power at the Centre for eight years.
Rahul firm on remarks
Meanwhile, speaking in Akola, Mr. Gandhi said he remained firm on his remarks that Savarkar helped the British while furnishing a copy of V. D. Savarkar’s mercy petition.
“He [Savarkar] wrote in it [petition] to the British authorities: ‘I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant.’ I am clear that Savarkarji helped the British. If Mr. Fadnavis wants to see this, he is welcome,” said the Congress leader.
Mr. Gandhi further dared the Shinde-Fadnavis government to try and stop the Bharat Jodo Yatra if it wanted to.
Protests by the BJP and Shinde-faction workers against Mr. Gandhi erupted across Pune, Kolhapur, Mumbai and other places in Maharashtra following his comments against V. D. Savarkar.
“I strongly doubt whether Balasaheb would have approved of his grandson hugging Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra given the latter’s insulting remarks against Veer Savarkar,” said Maharashtra Minister and Shinde camp spokesperson Deepak Kesarkar.
Criticising Mr. Gandhi’s poor study of history, BJP MLA Ram Kadam alleged the Congressman was trying to make headlines by slandering V. D. Savarkar.
“Unfortunately, while the late Balasaheb Thackeray never tolerated any insult on Savarkarji, his grandson Aaditya Thackeray is hugging Rahul Gandhi who insulted the revolutionary. What kind of ideology does Uddhav Thackeray espouse?” said Mr. Kadam
Meanwhile, Savarkar’s grandson, Ranjit Savarkar said he would be filing a police complaint against Mr. Gandhi for repeatedly defaming his grandfather during the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
“Rahul Gandhi first ought to study history before making such false and misleading statements about Veer Savarkar. The usage of ‘your obedient servant’ was commonplace at the time when one gentleman wrote to another. Even Mahatma Gandhi wrote this after his letters. By that measure, I too can say that he was beholden to the British. In fact, in one of his letters to the British authorities, Gandhiji says that no Indian has cooperated with you for 29 years as I have…based on what Rahul Gandhi is saying, does this mean the Mahatma was close to the British?” said Mr. Savarkar, calling the Congress MP’s criticisms of V. D. Savarkar “utterly pointless.”
Meanwhile, condemning Mr. Gandhi’s remarks, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has said it would be protesting the Congress MP’s rally in Shegaon (in Buldhana district) on Friday by showing black flags.