Bengaluru: While the BJP high command has expressed its displeasure at its MP Anantkumar Hegde for his remarks denigrating Mahatma Gandhi, the party’s Karnataka unit is backing the former union minister who hails from the state.
Hegde, who has a penchant for controversy, had Saturday described the Gandhi-led freedom struggle as “drama” and claimed that it was “staged with the consent and support of the British”. Claiming that his blood boils each time he reads Indian history, Hegde called the freedom struggle “not a genuine fight to freedom, but one of adjustment”.
“People supporting the Congress keep saying that India got independence because of the fast unto death and satyagraha. This is not true,” he said. “The British did not leave the country because of satyagraha, they gave us independence out of frustration.”
The Karnataka BJP now believes that Hegde represents a section of people who have a lot of questions on how the freedom struggle was fought and whether the role played by leaders such as Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru “impacted modern-day India”.
Karnataka BJP spokesperson and senior party leader Vaman Acharya told ThePrint that the MP’s comments were thought-provoking.
“There is a large section of society that feels that there were some odd characteristics with Mahatma Gandhi despite all his goodness. Some people did not like Gandhiji’s way of propagating ahimsa, some did not like his Ram bhajans — especially a section of his Muslim followers,” Acharya said.
“Hegde represents the section of people who question the way our freedom struggle was fought. His comments are to be given some serious thought,” he added.
“Who was there when Kashmir was formed? Nehru was there and so was Gandhi. For 70 years, we have remained quiet about a lot of things,” Acharya said. “When the BJP criticises the freedom struggle it involves every Congressman. The party questions all those who had a role to play remotely or directly in dividing India into Pakistan and Kashmir. Amit Shah also questioned this. So what is wrong in questioning Congress ki gaddari.”
Acharya later contacted ThePrint and apologised for his statements. He said that he would like to clarify that he is an ardent follower of Gandhiji and that he felt Hegde’s statements were wrong. Acharya further said that he believes if the central BJP leadership finds it appropriate, it should take action against Hegde.
Another BJP leader on condition of anonymity explained that Hegde is extremely popular and the youth love the way he speaks on issues.
“They love his bold, outspoken attitude. He is one of the most popular leaders in Karnataka and the younger generation whistles and claps each time he speaks,” the leader said. “It is not easy to be elected six times in a row. There is something that is striking the right chord as he seems to echo the sentiments of his voters.”
‘In line with BJP ideology’
The state Congress, however, is having none of it. The party’s Rajya Sabha MP Naseer Hussain countered Hegde, saying that it was Nathuram Godse’s followers and believers who were police informers and wrote apology letters to the British regime.
“Only such people can hold a view that Hegde has expressed,” Hussain said. “These are people who are out to discredit every icon, every glorious moment of our freedom struggle. They are trying to poison the minds of the younger generation.”
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri feels that Hegde’s comments are in line with his style of politics and ideology. He says that the timing of the comments may be wrong, but what Hegde says is “music to the ears” of many of the BJP’s cadre.
“He is not a lone voice in the BJP who feels like this. Comments on Nathuram Goode and now this on Gandhi, all have an element of connectivity,” Shastri said. “He is clearly appealing to a segment within the party who also believe that Mahatma Gandhi is an anathema. Speaking like this has been Hegde’s strength.”
A repeat offender
Hegde has a proclivity for outlandish remarks, revealing his Islamophobia and reeking of misogyny. In 2017, he famously said that the BJP intends to change the Constitution.
Speaking at an event in Koppal, he had said that while he respects the Constitution, “it will be changed in the days to come. We (BJP) are here for that and that is why we have come.”
A few days before that, Hegde had said that “as long as there is Islam in the world, there will be terrorism. Until we uproot Islam, we can’t remove terrorism”.
Known for his rabble-rousing tendencies, the former union minister, speaking at Kodagu in January 2019, sparked a row by saying that a hand that touches a Hindu girl “should not exist”.
He also famously claimed that the Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva temple built by King Paramatheertha, and was known as Tejo Mahalaya.
The Mahatma isn’t the only Gandhi that Hegde has attacked. When then Congress president Rahul Gandhi sought proof for the Balakot air strikes, Hegde responded by calling Rahul a “hybrid born to a Muslim and a Christian”.
During the height of the Sabarimala controversy last year, Hegde displayed his misogyny, saying that the Kerala government’s handling of the crisis was similar to “daylight rape” of Hindus.