Nathuram Godse has come alive 70 years after being hanged for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi to haunt the BJP in its hour of glory. Not that BJP had ever had any aversion for Godse. Rather, the BJP leaders had always been admirers of Godse’s ‘courageous act’ though they had been exercising discretion in praising Godse publicly because of strong public sentiment against Godse’s dastardly act of killing a person who is universally revered and regarded as the ‘Father of the Nation’ in India.
Just as the country was readying for the seventh and last phase of polling in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Bhopal candidate and Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur raked up the controversy on May 16 by glorifying Godse as a patriot. She got prompt support from two Karnataka BJP leaders. Though there were strong protests across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah did not react immediately. Apparently on receiving a feedback that Thakur’s remark might have an adverse effect on BJP’s prospects in the last phase of polling two days later, the two top BJP leaders reacted only next day. Shah referred the matter to the party’s disciplinary committee for ‘appropriate action’ against Pragya Singh Thakur, as well as the two Karnataka leaders Anant Hegde and Nalin Kateel. Both Shah and Modi said that what Pragya Singh Thakur had said was against the party’s ideology. Modi also said that he would never be able to forgive Pragya Singh for her remarks about Godse.
That was before the last phase of polling was held. The election process was completed on May 23 and the BJP romped home with a stunning majority. The deadline given to the disciplinary committee to take ‘appropriate action’ against Thakur and the two Karnataka leaders expired on May 27. Moreover, if the two felt that Pragya’s Godse remark was against BJP’s ideology, they would not have allowed it to be aired on channels and displayed on media for full 24 hours before reacting and sending the matter to the disciplinary committee.
While the disciplinary committee is still debating what action to suggest against Pragya Singh Thakur (now a Lok Sabha member) and others, BJP’s MLA from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh Usha Thakur has eulogised Godse and said Godse was a ‘nationalist’ and he always had the nation’s interest at heart. Pragya Singh Thakur’s Godse remark has found endorsement from a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, Vishnu Pandya, also. Participating in a debate on Gujarat Samachar TV (GSTV), Pandya was reported to have said that ‘Godse was a patriot, and so was Gandhi’. At present president of Gujarat Sahitya Akademy and a Padma-Shree awardee, Pandya was known to be close to Modi when the latter was Chief Minister of Gujarat.
BJP’s dilemma is how to proceed against Pragya Singh Thakur and others who have lauded Nathuram Godse. Inaction or mild action against them is likely to upset some of BJP’s NDA allies. Even though the BJP has a thumping majority in Lok Sabha on its own, upsetting the allies will mark a bad beginning for the second term of Modi government. More importantly, condonation of Pragya Singh’s Godse remark will create a feeling of resentment among the vast majority of the people in India which will not be conducive for smooth running of the government. Strict action against Thakur and others is likely to alienate BJP/RSS cadre who have all these years been fed on Godse’s patriotism.