Mumbai: The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) has once again slammed Rahul Gandhi for “insulting” Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, saying it will reduce sympathy for the Congress leader and make it difficult for the party to face the public.
The Congress and the Shiv Sena (UBT) are allies under the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, along with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana Monday, the party states, “By insulting Savarkar, the sympathy for Rahul Gandhi will go down. In fact it will be difficult for the Congress leaders in the state to face the public as Savarkar is present in every nook and corner of the state.”
The editorial also praises Savarkar and his contribution towards the freedom struggle.
“Savarkar’s name means a lot for us. He fought against slavery and injustice. What happened with Rahul Gandhi in the case of defamation is unfair but by insulting Savarkar, he cannot win the battle of truth.”
Rahul Gandhi’s latest jibe at Savarkar came Saturday, as he addressed a press conference following his conviction in a defamation case, which also led to his disqualification as an MP.
When Rahul was asked about his refusal to apologise for the comments he made in the UK on India, or for the “Modi surname” remark that led to his conviction, he said, “My name is not Savarkar. My name is Gandhi and Gandhi doesn’t apologise.”
The criticism is centred on the petitions Savarkar wrote while imprisoned by the British in the Andamans.
Last year, too, Gandhi’s criticism of Savarkar during the Bharat Jodo Yatra had sparked a rift between the Congress and Uddhav Thackeray’s party.
However, the allies buried the differences, as was evident when Thackeray’s top aide Sanjay Raut joined Rahul Gandhi’s march.
In the editorial, the Shiv Sena (UBT) pointed out that Gandhi was born into a family that made sacrifices for the country, adding that even Savarkar had worked for India.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) is repeatedly giving statements like ‘My name is not Savarkar’, but such statements won’t make anyone brave,” it said. “People have trust in Savarkar and it won’t be erased easily.”
While Gandhi’s remarks also drew a sharp rebuke from Uddhav over the weekend, the Congress has said the fate of the alliance won’t be dictated by such differences.
Also Read: Don’t bar Rahul Gandhi from contesting election—or any convicted criminal for that matter
Uddhav’s warning of ‘fissures’
On Sunday, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray warned of “fissures in the Maharashtra opposition alliance” if the Congress leader didn’t stop criticising their idol.
Addressing a rally in Malegaon, he said, “I want to tell Rahul Gandhi that we walked with you in your Bharat Jodo Yatra as it was for the fight to save democracy. But I want to openly tell Rahul Gandhi that Savarkar is a god-like figure for us and we will not tolerate his insult.”
Savarkar, he added, “suffered unimaginable torture in the Andaman cellular jail for 14 years”.
“We can only read the sufferings. It is a form of sacrifice. We will not tolerate the insult of Savarkar,” he said.
“We are together in the fight to save democracy. But do not make statements or take steps that will create fissures (between the Sena (UBT) and the Congress). They (BJP) are trying to provoke you,” he added.
However, Congress leaders in the state said there is no threat to the alliance, adding that the coalition was formed over a common minimum programme.
Speaking to ThePrint, Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe said, “Congress’ stand on Savarkar is quite straightforward. He not only asked for forgiveness but even tried to divide the country on religious lines. And even Sardar Patel had said that Gandhi ji was killed because of that atmosphere.”
“As far as the alliance is concerned, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP came together under a common minimum programme. This fight is to save democracy and the Constitution, hence we came together,” he added. “His (Uddhav Thackeray) party is different and we both knew each other’s stand over Savarkar. That is why this is not an important topic. What is important is that we have to fight the BJP together.”
The MVA, which was in power in Maharashtra before a split in the Shiv Sena, together won the Kasba Peth bypoll earlier this year, besides graduates and teachers’ constituency elections.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Also Read: Read this before deciding whether Savarkar was a British stooge or strategic nationalist