The row over former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks against Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar during the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra may have brought the former ruling alliance in Maharashtra on the verge of a breakup. Facing relentless attacks against Rahul from the BJP for “insulting” Savarkar, the Congress now faces a more significant challenge from its allies who have not taken too kindly to his remarks.
The Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, which has consistently shown utmost respect to Savarkar — even going to the extent of demanding a Bharat Ratna for him — has come out openly against Rahul, stating that the party does not agree with what the Congress leader had to say. That was Uddhav Thackeray, the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, yesterday.
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The issue snowballed today with leaders of the Uddhav faction of the Sena suggesting that it could end its alliance with the Congress on the matter.
“The issue of Veer Savarkar is crucial to us. We have always followed his ideals of Hindutva and Akhand Bharat. We disagree with the remarks made (by Rahul) regarding Veer Savarkar. This was never the agenda of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Issues like inflation, and unemployment are areas that Congress wanted to enlighten people about through this Yatra. What is the need to bring Veer Savarkar into all this? This issue can cause fissures in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi,” Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said addressing a press conference on Friday.
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“The MVA may not collapse. It would certainly cause bitterness… there will be cracks in our alliance which is not a good sign,” Raut added.
Addressing a press conference at Wadegaon in Akola district on Thursday, Rahul cited what he claimed were documents dating back to 1920 which contained a letter Savarkar wrote to the British.
“I will read the last line, which says ‘I beg to remain your most obedient servant’ and is signed V D Savarkar, which shows he helped the British,” Gandhi said, adding that Savarkar had also written a mercy petition to British rulers, thereby betraying Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the freedom struggle.
Reacting to Rahul’s comments, Uddhav Thackeray said, “We do not approve of Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Savarkar. We have immense respect and faith for Swatyantra Veer Savarkar and it cannot be erased.”
The Shiv Sena, the NCP and Congress are part of the MVA which was forged in following the Maharashtra elections in 2019. The Shiv Sena, which had walked out of its decades-old alliance with the BJP on the issue of a rotational chief minister, joined hands with its opponents and formed a government.
The BJP, which lost power in this post-poll alliance despite being the single largest party, avenged the insult of 2019 earlier this year when a majority of the MLAs of the Shiv Sena rebelled against Uddhav and joined hands with the BJP to form a government under the leadership of Eknath Shinde.