Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that he will never forgive BJP’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur for insulting the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi by calling his killer Nathuram Godse a ‘patriot’.
But for being the first one to raise the issue and describing Godse as independent India’s first ‘terrorist’, actor-turned-politician from Tamil Nadu Kamal Haasan has ended up having a shoe, eggs and stones thrown at him for his remark at election meetings.
After calling Godse a Hindu terrorist, the MNM founder continued to find himself embroiled in controversy. He tried to defend his terrorist remark by saying that there are terrorists belonging to all religions and nobody can claim that they are “sanctimonious”.
With his remarks, Haasan has managed to split the nation into Godse apologists and Godse shamers. It has also put many people in an awkward position – those trying to defend Godse’s thoughts while condemning his action.
The first to come to Godse’s defence was BJP’s Pragya Singh Thakur. Glorifying Godse’s act by calling Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin a “deshbhakt”, she went on to say that those who call him a terrorist “should introspect” and will be given a “befitting reply” in these elections.
The BJP distanced themselves from Pragya Thakur’s remarks, only to be further embarrassed by two Karnataka parliamentarians.
Nalin Kumar Kateel, BJP’s Dakshina Kannada candidate, compared Godse to Ajmal Kasab and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in his tweet: “Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is more cruel in this?”
Soon after, BJP’s Uttara Kannada candidate, Anantkumar Hegde, also notorious for his motormouth statements, tweeted: “I am glad that after 7 decades the present generation have begun debating in a changed perceptional environment. It gives good scope for those who were condemned to be finally heard. #NathuramGodse would have finally felt happy with this debate!”.
These statements have further embarrassed the BJP and all three have been now asked to explain their statements within 10 days.
In Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year, India is debating whether Godse is a terrorist, assassin or patriot. And it took an atheist politician, a newbie in elections, to set off the debate.
But Haasan has had a history of stoking controversy.
In an interview in 2017, Haasan had said that in the Mahabharata, Panchali was used as a pawn in the game of chess played by the men in court. The Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) filed a police complaint stating that Haasan had hurt religious feelings. “The actor, who is a Brahmin by birth, is totally anti-Brahmin, anti-Hindu and anti-anything that is good for Tamil Nadu and India,” the HMK president said.
The same year, in an India Today Conclave, Haasan extended support to the practice of Jallikattu. He said that those who want to ban Jallikattu should also ban biriyani.
Claiming to be one of the few actors who has played Jallikattu, he called himself a proud Tamilian who is proud of its culture. These remarks drew mixed reactions and Haasan hogged the headlines for days.
Haasan’s campaign has been aggressive from the beginning. He labelled himself as an agent of change, and there was a lot of excitement around his political entry. His political narrative focused on secularism and corruption, with his campaign gaining a lot of momentum initially.
Haasan’s online political advertisements on YouTube were a huge hit and many pollsters monitoring voter turnout believe that the youth were inspired by his online campaign.
Haasan has always taken the Hindutva discourse by its horns. While writing an article for Tamil magazine Anand Vikatan, Haasan had openly criticised Hindutva extremism and said that Hindu extremists should be nipped in the bud. Even while announcing his candidature, he had stated that his party would don any colour, but his hue will never be saffron.
His Godse remark, however, is not new. At the Marina beach in Chennai on 16 April – the last day of campaigning, Haasan had made the same comment, but it seemed to have slipped through the cracks of the news cycle.