In Savarkar Row, Devendra Fadnavis Counters Rahul Gandhi


New Delhi/Mumbai:

With a series of tweets showing letters and video clips, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today countered Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks about Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar’s mercy petitions to the British when jailed during the freedom struggle.

Mr Fadnavis said even Mahatma Gandhi had used the same signoff as Savarkar did, ‘I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant’, in letters to the British.

“Rahul ji, yesterday you asked me to read the last lines of a letter [by VD Savarkar],” said the BJP leader, “Have you read this letter from our respected Mahatma Gandhi? Does it have the same last line you wanted me to read?”

While VD Savarkar’s letter was a mercy petition, Mahatma Gandhi — in the 1920 letter, a part of which Mr Fadnavis shared — was apparently telling the British about non-cooperation being a valid form of protest.

Mentioning specific phrases, Mr Fadnavis also shared “a letter from 1980” in which former PM Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, called VD Savarkar a “pillar of the freedom movement” and “remarkable son of India”.

The BJP, which considers VD Savarkar an icon of bravery and prefers to call him “Veer”, has been attacking Rahul Gandhi over his most recent remarks that he made in Maharashtra during his ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

Mr Fadnavis further shared Maharashtra leaders’ laudatory views on VD Savarkar — including those of Congress leaders — and shared a letter and video of Congress ally Sharad Pawar, too, in which the NCP leader calls VD Savarkar’s life “a saga of supreme sacrifices”.

The row has also spotlighted, again, contradictions in the Congress alliance with Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena faction in Maharashtra. “We have immense respect for Veer Savarkar. We don’t agree with Rahul Gandhi’s views,” Uddhav Thackeray had said.

On this, Rahul Gandhi has argued that difference of opinion can exist with partners in a democracy.

The Congress has stuck by Rahul Gandhi, who had contrasted tribal leader Birsa Munda’s bravery with VD Savarkar’s mercy pleas earlier this week. Yesterday Mr Gandhi added to his argument by flashing a letter written by VD Savarkar to the British, and said: “I am clearly of the view that he helped the British.”

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh today said Rahul Gandhi did not target VD Savarkar but “only highlighted a historical fact”.

“It was a fact that (Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin) Nathuram Godse was influenced by Savarkar. It was Savarkar’s ideology that was behind the killing of Mahatma Gandhi. The ideology to which Savarkar subscribed was cause of his killing,” Mr Ramesh further said.

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