Mumbai/ New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s controversial remarks on Vinayak Damodar alias Veer Savarkar escalated into a big controversy, earning the ire of friends and foes alike, here on Saturday. Slamming Gandhi, Ranjit Savarkar, the grandson of Veer Savarkar, said: “Thank God his name is not Rahul Savarkar, or else we would have had to blacken our own faces.” “He alleged that Veer Savarkar apologised, but actually he only agreed to certain conditions to secure his release, and this is known to the whole world. Veer Savarkar never indulged in the kind of submissive behaviour that Jawaharlal Nehru showed before the British even after Independence,” Ranjit Savarkar said. He also attacked the Congress, saying it is no longer the party of freedom struggle but was reduced to a slave of a dynasty. Later, speaking to a private TV channel, he expressed hope that the Congress’ ally in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, would beat him (Gandhi) up with ‘shoes’ for the insult meted out to his grandfather. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis sarcastically said that “just because someone has the Gandhi surname does not make him a (Mahatma) Gandhi,” and demanded Gandhi must apologise to the nation for his utterances.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut sternly said: “We respect Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. Veer Savarkar is not just Maharashtra’s but the entire country’s idol, who sacrificed his life for the country’s freedom. Hence, he (Veer Savarkar) should not be insulted in any manner, and there can be no compromise on this.” Raut’s statement came barely a day after the Congress seemed to have backtracked on the Sena’s decision to vote for the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha, but abstained from the Rajya Sabha vote, even as the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) came into force amidst protests in many parts of India. Gandhi’s outburst came when he refused to apologise over his “Rape in India” remark and sought to deride Veer Savarkar by saying: “I am not Rahul Savarkar, and I will not apologise for speaking the truth.” Addressing the party’s Bharat Bachao rally in New Delhi, Gandhi said that in the Parliament on Friday, the BJP members asked him to apologise “but I want to tell them that I am not Rahul Savarkar, I won’t apologise. I will not apologise for speaking the truth.” Instead, he demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah should say sorry to the country for the economic crises and the CAA fallout, even as his comments on Veer Savarkar snowballed into a mega row by the evening.
On Saturday, the Congress deployed all its top guns to take on the Central government over a number of issues, like the economic crisis, spate of crimes against women, rising inflation, misusing and undermining institutions and playing havoc with the spirit of the Constitution. The Bharat Bachao rally at the historic Ramlila Maidan in Delhi was aimed at infusing new life in the Congress workers, who, of late, have been feeling low and outnumbered by the BJP. Even Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed General Secretary in January, made her debut as a speaker at the rally. Priyanka instantly established a connect with the party workers when she talked about the Modi government’s failure on many fronts, like economy, price rise, employment, failure to ensure safety for women, disinvestment of Navratna PSUs and privatisation of the Indian Railways. When she underlined her criticism of the government with the BJP’s “Modi hai to mumkin hai” (With Modi, everything is possible), the assembled party supporters went into rapture.