New India: Godse hero, Gandhi evil? Pragya Singh Thakur

Pragya Singh Thakur

Pragya Singh Thakur, the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate in Bhopal, has praised Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, as a patriot. The comment has put the party’s leaders in a bind and may even have embarrassed them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that he would not be able to forgive her for her remarks. He also said the comment, and supporting remarks made by some other leaders, are terribly wrong and “such language is not acceptable in civil society’’. Party president Amit Shah has said that Pragya Singh has been issued a show cause notice and given10 days’ time to respond. It is not the first time that Pragya Thakur has made controversial remarks. She is an accused in the Malegaon terror blasts case and is out on bail. The party had consciously chosen her as a candidate, very well knowing her background, and in fact because of that.  

Pragya Thakur’s comment has only exposed a deep ideological strain that has existed in the BJP and specifically in the RSS. The Sangh Parivar has never been comfortable with Gandhi’s ideas and his legacy, especially his idea of composite nationalism and advocacy of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. The BJP declared adherence to Gandhi’s ideas and tried to appropriate him because it needed a respected and acceptable leader to be identified and associated with. For some time, there was even talk of “Gandhian socialism’’, though no one knew what it was. The sincerity of this claimed allegiance to Gandhi has always been in doubt. Godse has always had a place in the Hindutva pantheon, and he has been praised in the past also by many leaders. Pragya Thakur’s remark was supported by union minister Anant Kumar Hedge and the party’s MP Nalin Kumar Kateel. The retractions and explanations for such statements have not been convincing. 

It is claimed that extreme Hindutva ideas like the justification of Gandhi’s assassination and deification of Godse are advocated only by the fringe groups in the Sangh Parivar. But the fringe is becoming more and more mainstream now. The new ideas and roles are also part of a new history articulated and written by the Sangh Parivar. An environment has been created in the country which emboldens people to openly express these ideas. Godse gets legitimacy and becomes a hero, and Gandhi becomes anti-national, according to the new version of nationalism that is being advocated and spread in the country. Pragya Thakur has apologised for her comment, but she has done so reluctantly and after persuasion. But there is no doubt that she will continue to be a face of the BJP, whether she wins the election or not. 

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