Pragya Singh Thakur, leader of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), shows her ink-marked finger after casting her vote, outside a polling station in Bhopal, India, May 12, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Another controversy dominated election news in India, as divisive candidate Pragya Singh Thakur called the assassin of Mahatama Gandhi a patriot.

Thakur, who is out on bail on terror charges, made the statement in response to comments by actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan, who called Nathuram Godse independent India’s first terrorist.

Speaking to a journalist during a rally, Thakur said: “Nathuram Godse was, is and always will be a patriot. Those who call him a terrorist should look at their own selves. They will be given an answer in this election.”

According to a news report by Indian news channel NDTV, Thakur later apologised for her comments, with her party publicly condemning the comment and disowning it.

Thakur is one of the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast and has been fielded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) as a candidate from the city of Bhopal. She is standing against the Congress party’s Digvijay Singh, who is a former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.

Gandhi, who is referred to as the Father of the Nation in India, led the freedom movement against colonial rule and was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse.

On social media, #PragyaSinghThakur and Godse were the top trends in India, with many tweeps expressing outrage at the statements, asking that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, issue an official statement, criticising the comments.

Twitter user @ARanganathan72 wrote: “Sickening remark by the terror-accused #PragyaSinghThakur glorifying the terrorist Nathuram Godse. Should be unequivocally condemned by her party, beginning with @narendramodi who eulogises and worships Mahatma Gandhi.”

Another Twitter user @amjadsalimkhan commented: “This is the party that gives anti-national certificates to everyone. #shame #irony #PragyaSinghThakur”

Tweep @narangmunish added: “#PragyaSinghThakur’s candidature is the worst decision by BJP. Yes, she is accused, not convicted, and may be right about [enduring] torture but she is wrong to abuse Hemant Karkare and Mahatma Gandhi. She should apologise. We can have different opinions for them but their sacrifice cannot be belittled.”

Earlier, Thakur had fielded controversy when she had said that Mumbai anti-terror squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was investigating her in the Malegaon case, died because of a curse she had placed on him. Karkare had been murdered by terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

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Godse supporters

This is not the first time, however, that right-wing candidates have supported Gandhi’s assassin. Earlier this year, Pooja Shakun, national secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing Hindu group, had re-enacted the assassination of Gandhi on his death anniversary, with people behind her shouting “Mahatma Nathuram Godse is immortal”.

Tweep @AunindyoC commented: “The reason why #PragyaSinghThakur says Nathuram Godse is a deshbhakt [patriot] is because she knows there are 31% of Indians who will support her. Don’t blame her. Blame the cretinisation of this country.”