(from left)former PM Manmohan and PM Narendra Modi
(from left)former PM Manmohan and PM Narendra Modi

One of the defining moments of the UPA II tenure in 2013 – which epitomised the chasm between the those who held power and those who didn’t – was when Rahul Gandhi tore an ordinance to protect convicted MPs and MLAs. The incident occurred when former PM Manmohan Singh was abroad and typified the lack of power the PM had compared to members of the Gandhi family. And six years later, Rahul and Manmohan appear to be on different pages vis-à-vis Savarkar.

On Thursday, former PM Manmohan Singh praised the Hindutva icon, despite the utterances of other Cong leaders. He said that Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in his honour and that the Congress ‘wasn’t against Savarkar, but he disagreed with Savarkar’s Hindutva legacy’. Indira had famously said: “Savarkar's defiance of the British government has its own place in the freedom struggle."

His statement is stark contrast to Rahul and Cong’s recent utterances on Savarkar. Rahul Gandhi is facing a case for calling Savarkar a coward in February 2019, during a speech in Delhi. The complaint was filed by Ranjeet Savarkar and had told ANI: ''Rahul Gandhi while addressing an election rally, had alleged that Veer Savarkar had apologised to the Britishers to be released from jail. It's false. Savarkar ji was jailed for 27 years by the Britishers.

I've filed a complaint against him for defaming Savarkar ji.” He also filed a case against the Congress including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, for deriding Savarkar on Twitter. Savarkar is revered by the ruling BJP and often derided by members of the Congress. Savarkar’s name has cropped up ahead of the 2019 Assembly elections in Maharashtra where he is revered. Digvijaya Singh waded into the battle by pointing out that Savarkar’s name was registered in the conspiracy behind Gandhi’s murder.

Cong’s Manish Tewari also waded into the debate by saying: “ “Why does NDA/BJP Government want to confer Bharath Ratna on Savarkar why not Godse? Former was only chargesheeted and later acquitted for assassination of Gandhi while latter was convicted and hanged. On his [Mahatma Gandhi’s] 150th anniversary if you want to defile his memory then go the whole nine yards?” Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said that had it not been for Veer Savarkar, India wouldn't have known the importance of the 1857 Mutiny.

"The Mutiny of 1857 would have remained a revolt as the British had called it. It was Veer Savarkar who gave it the name of the first war of independence," said Shah. He underlined the fact that history needed to be re-written so that the real facts could be placed before the nation. Shah's statement assumes significance in view of the fact that the Maharashtra BJP, in its manifesto for the 2019 Assembly polls, has promised to urge the Centre to confer Bharat Ratna on Veer Savarkar whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi counts as one of his idols. Shah is also an ardent follower of Savarkar and even has an image of the revolutionary in his drawing room.

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