Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Singh Thakur on Wednesday referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as a patriot during a debate in the Lok Sabha, PTI reported. She had courted controversy by calling Godse a patriot in the run-up to the General Elections.

“You cannot give the example of ‘deshbhakts’ [patriots],” Thakur interjected when Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP A Raja mentioned Godse during a debate on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill. Raja had cited Godse’s statement about why he killed Gandhi. The parliamentarian from Tamil Nadu said Godse had carried out the assassination because he believed in a particular philosophy.

After she interrupted Raja, BJP members persuaded Thakur to sit down while Opposition members started protesting against her remark.

Later in the evening, Thakur asked reporters to listen to her complete statement before asking her questions, ANI reported. The parliamentarian from Bhopal said she would address the matter in the Lower House on Thursday.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said Thakur had not named Godse or anyone else, ANI reported. “Her microphone was not on, she made the objection when the name of Udham Singh was being taken,” Joshi said. “She has even explained this and told it to me personally.”

Udham Singh was a revolutionary belonging to the Ghadar Party, a multiethnic Indian organisation based in the United States. In 1940, he assassinated former Punjab Lieutenant Governor Michael O’Dwyer in London. O’Dwyer supported Colonel Reginald Dyer’s decision to fire on unarmed protestors in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. Singh was tried and executed by the British.

Reacting to Thakur’s remarks, the Congress wondered if Prime Minister Narendra Modi would condemn the MP for her comments, PTI reported. “Repeatedly referring to Nathuram Godse as ‘deshbhakt’ is perfect representation of the BJP’s deplorable hate politics,” said the Opposition party. “Will PM Modi condemn Pragya Thakur’s remarks or continue to stay silent?”

DMK MP A Raja, who Thakur had interrupted, told ANI that Thakur’s remarks were condemnable. “When I said Nathuram Godse committed a brutal act of killing Gandhi, Sadhvi Pragya stood and said that he was a nationalist,” Raja said. “It is condemnable.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, a Congress leader, asked the BJP to take action against Thakur. In a series of tweets, Nath asked the BJP to clarify whether it is on Gandhi’s side or Godse’s.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi said that Modi, “who celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary with great pomp”, should now clarify what he really thinks about Gandhi.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury wondered whether Thakur could remain a BJP MP. “Godse in India and Gandhi to the rest of the world,” Yechury tweeted, referencing the government. “This forked tongue of the RSS/BJP and its normalisation of terror cannot go on. Godse was a terrorist who murdered Gandhi.”

Controversial figure

Thakur is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombing case, and is facing trial in a National Investigation Agency court. After the Godse controversy during the Lok Sabha election campaign, she issued an apology following a barrage of criticism from her own party as well as the Opposition. Narendra Modi later said he would never be able to forgive Thakur for her comments.

During the debate in the Lower House on Wednesday, Thakur said Congress leaders called her a terrorist even though they protected terrorists. She was referring to Warren Anderson, the chief executive officer of Union Carbide that owned the plant in Bhopal where a gas leak killed thousands in 1984. “A foreigner comes here, kills thousands,” Thakur said, according to ANI. “There are many who are still suffering. The then Congress government helped him escape. This is terrorism.”

The Lower House passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which
aims to restore the law’s original provisions, as enacted in 1988, directing the Special Protection Group to protect only the prime minister and former prime ministers. The Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha during the debate on the bill.