New Delhi: Pragya Thakur has apologised for her remarks claiming that Gandhi's assassin was a patriot and will remain one. Under fire for her "Nathuram-Godse-is-a-patriot" remark, BJP's Bhopal Lok Sabha seat candidate tendered an apology on Thursday night and said she respected Mahatma Gandhi as his work for the country cannot be forgotten.
"My sentiment was not to hurt anyone's feelings. If it has hurt anybody's feelings then I apologise. What Gandhi ji has done for the country cannot be forgotten. I respect him a lot," she had said in a video statement.
She said she made the comments on the spur of moment to a question linked to "saffron terror" and claimed that the media twisted them.
Asked about the BJP terming her remarks as her personal views, she agreed and added that she was a disciplined worker of the party.
She said her party's line is her line.
Earlier in the day, Thakur had ignited a political storm with her remarks.The Congress Thursday demanded an unconditional apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and punitive action against Pragya Singh Thakur, including withdrawal of her candidature from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, over her remarks that Mahatma Gandhi's assassin was a "patriot".
In a stinging attack, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that "insulting martyrs is in the BJP DNA" and the "soul of the nation" has been hurt with Thakur's remarks who has "now crossed all limits".
"It is clear, the BJP people are the descendants of Godse. BJP people say Godse was a patriot and martyr Hemant Karkare was a traitor. Culture of violence and insulting martyrs is the DNA of the BJP," he told reporters.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra dared BJP's "nationalistic luminaries" to spell out their stand on Thakur's statement and said merely distancing from her is not enough.
"Bapu's assassin a patriot? Hey Ram," Priyanka tweeted.
"Distancing yourself from your candidate is not enough. Nationalistic luminaries of the BJP, have the guts to spell out your stand," she added.
The BJP condemned her statement and asked her to tender a public apology.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said if Nathuram Godse is a patriot, he is happy to be an anti-national.
Chidambaram's party colleague Ahmed Patel said that since January 30, 1948, when the Mahatma was assassinated, the Congress has been working tirelessly to defeat the idea that killed Gandhi.
Hitting out at the BJP, he said it is a sad day that a party which dreams to govern India again is proudly sheltering Godse and his cult supporters.
"One is speechless to see how the BJP is unfolding its real anti-Bapu beliefs under the garb of election campaigning," Patel said.
At his press conference, Surjewala said, "India's soul is again under attack by the successors of Godse, the current ruling BJP dispensation. BJP leaders are describing the murderer of 'Father of the Nation' Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, as a true nationalist while declaring those who sacrificed their life for the nation like Hemant Karkare as anti-national."
The BJP, through its leaders, is repeatedly launching "malicious attacks" on the Father of the Nation's thinking, path and ideology, he alleged.
"This is a conspiracy to insult Gandhian principles. This is an unforgivable crime which the country will not forgive," he said.
"The simple question is, when the Prime Minister (Modi) abuses the first Prime Minister of India, is he carrying forward the same culture. We call upon the Prime Minister to tender an unconditional apology to the nation and take punitive action against Pragya Thakur.
"Otherwise, it will be more than proved that all such acts of denigrating Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi by the ilk of Pragya Thakur has the active concurrence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its (BJP's) leadership," he said.
Surjewala said Pragya's remarks are an "insult to the Indian way of life and to the Gandhina culture" and PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah must come forward and punish her, withdraw her candidature and also apologise to the nation.
He said that only recently Pragya Thakur had said that 26/11 Mumbai terror martyr Hemant Karkare was killed because of her curse.
"This is an insult to the Indian way of life the Gandhian way of life that lives in India's soul, that lives in the very ethos that India espouses. This is an unpardonable sin. The truth is that insulting India's martyr and denigrating them has become the culture of BJP," he alleged.
The BJP condemned Thakur's statement and asked her to tender a public apology.
"We completely disagree with her statement with regard to Mahatma Gandhi. We strongly condemn this statement. The party will seek clarification from her as to why she gave this. It would be proper for her to seek and tender a public apology for her objectionable statement," BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said in a statement in Delhi.
Asked about BJP distancing itself from the remarks, Surjewala said it has become a unique culture of the BJP "by first asking Pragya Thakur to abuse martyr Hemant Karkare and then distance".
"Prime Minister does not utter a word. Amit Shah Ji does not utter a word and a junior spokesperson proceeds to say something and brush it aside," he said.
"Why is Narendra Modi silent? Why did not Narendra Modi take any action against Pragya Thakur? Why Amit Shah chose to remain silent? Why did they not withdraw her candidature the first time around," he said.
Talking to a news channel in Madhya Pradesh, Thakur said, "Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot), he is and will remain a deshbhakt. Those calling him a terrorist should instead look at themselves. They will be given a befitting reply in this election."
Thakur's remarks came in response to a question over actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's comments that free India's first extremist was a Hindu, a reference to Godse.