Congress official Twitter handle (screen grab)
Taking a jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, the Opposition Congress on Friday changed their Facebook and Twitter display picture (DP) with photo of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. The move comes a day after BJP's Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Thakur stirred a fresh controversy by calling Nathuram Godse, the assasin of Mahatma Gandhi, a "patriot". Godse, who shot dead Mahatma Gandhi at a prayer meeting in New Delhi on January 30, 1948, was hanged after a trial.
Earlier in the day, Congress president Rahul Gandhi also took a swipe at the Saffron Party, saying the BJP and the RSS are not "God-ke Lovers" but "God-se Lovers". "I finally got it. The BJP and the RSS... Are not God-Ke Lovers. They are God-Se Lovers," Gandhi tweeted.
Speaking to a news channel during an election campaign in Madhya Pradesh, Thakur said, "Nathuram Godse was a 'deshbhakt', is a 'deshbhakt' and will remain a 'deshbhakt'. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within. Such people will be given a befitting reply in these elections".
Senior BJP leaders Anant Kumar Hegde and Nalin Kateel came out in Thakur's support and praised Godse, giving a further boost to the controversy. Amil Saumitra, who is the head of BJP’s media cell of Madhya Pradesh, in a Facebook post also termed Mahatma Gandhi the "father of Pakistan", adding that crores of people were born in India like him.
However, the BJP has distanced itself from these extremist remarks, saying that it was their personal comments and the party had nothing to do with them. The party has also suspended Saumitra and asked him to submit a reply within seven days over his controversial post on Facebook.
Pragya also tendered an apology after her 'Godse a patriot' remark drew widespread criticism from leaders of opposition parties as well as the BJP. Her statment also forced PM Modi to publicly state that he will never forgive Pragya Singh Thakur for insulting 'Bapu'.
In a similar move, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and several top Trinamool Congress leaders on Wednesday switched to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's picture on their respective Facebook and Twitter profiles to protest against the desecration of the bust of the 18th century social reformer during a roadshow of BJP president Amit Shah in Kolkata.
In wake of the widespread violence between the BJP and Trinamool Congress supporters in West Bengal, the Election Commission, in an unprecedented action, on Wednesday curtailed campaigning in nine Lok Sabha constituencies of the state, going to polls on May 19.