After sparking a political controversy with his remarks against Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi refrained from making further comments against Savarkar at his public address in Shegaon in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district on Friday.
The Congress MP from Wayanad instead targeted the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a more general manner, claiming that the saffron party had spread “hatred and fear in every corner of the country.”
“It is to counter the fear and hatred being spread by the BJP that we have begun the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Its aim is not to impose any ‘Mann ki Baat’, but to listen to the voices of ordinary people and feel their pain,” said Mr. Gandhi in his final public address in the Maharashtra chapter of his yatra.
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He touched upon farmers’ woes and the plight of students “in face of ratcheting unemployment”.
“In the last six months, how many farmers in Vidarbha have taken their lives and why… for what reason have they done so? If you talk to any farmer, they say they do not get the right rate… I am tired of hearing these words over and over again. They do not get their insurance money despite paying premiums. Their average debt burden ranges from ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh. Farmers tell me that the government cannot waive a debt burden of ₹1 lakh, but can exempt everything for India’s billionaires,” said Mr. Gandhi.
He added that if Maharashtra’s CM and India’s PM “opened their hearts” and listened to the problems of farmers, then not a single farmer would take his life in the future.
“Maharashtra’s farmers and students have taught me a lot. They have given me strength, affection and knowledge during this yatra,” said Mr. Gandhi.
Meanwhile, BJP leader and Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis chastised Mr. Gandhi in a series of tweets over his remarks against Savarkar’s mercy petitions to the British authorities.
Countering Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Fadnavis posted a letter by Mahatma Gandhi on Twitter while pointing out that the Mahatma had used the same sign-off as Savarkar did – ‘I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant’ – in his letters to the British.
“Rahul ji, yesterday you asked me to read the last lines of a letter [by 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?”
Mr. Fadnavis posted a part of a 1920 letter which has the Mahatma apparently telling the British about non-cooperation being a valid form of protest.
The BJP leader further shared a letter, apparently from 1980 wherein Mr. Gandhi’s grandmother – former PM Indira Gandhi – reportedly called Savarkar a “pillar of the freedom movement” and “remarkable son of India”.
Mr. Fadnavis also shared ‘testimonials’ on Savarkar’s sacrifice and bravery given by NCP chief Sharad Pawar (a Congress ally) in which the NCP leader calls Savarkar’s life “a saga of supreme sacrifices.”
During Mr. Gandhi’s address in Shegaon, the BJP staged a counter protest in nearby Khamgaon.
Hundreds of activists of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which had vowed to protest against Mr. Gandhi during his address, were taken into police custody before they reached Shegaon.