Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday claimed that the positive energy generated due to the Congress's Bharat Jodo Yatra has been undone by Rahul Gandhi's criticism of freedom fighter V D Savarkar.
In his weekly column 'Rokhthok' in the party mouthpiece Saamana, Rajya Sabha member Raut questioned why Gandhi was raking up issues which touch the people's emotional chord and giving the BJP a chance on a platter to divert attention.
During a press conference in Maharashtra as part of his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi recently called Savarkar a symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Gandhi had also claimed that the late Hindutva ideologue helped the British rulers and wrote a mercy petition to them out of fear, the remarks that drew criticism and triggered protests.
Raut, who was recently granted bail in a money laundering case, said, ''I spent three months in jail. Many freedom fighters were lodged in the Arthur Road Jail (in Mumbai). There is a memorial in the prison. As a common prisoner, it is difficult to spend even one day in jail.'' ''Savarkar spent more than 10 years in Andaman cellular jail and faced tremendous hardships. The British did not arrest him on false charges of money laundering. He lit the torch of an armed revolution against the British rule which is why he was sentenced to Andaman,'' said Raut, who is the executive editor of Marathi daily Saamana.
He said two sentences of life imprisonment meant 50 years in jail. Savarkar's brother Narayanrao was released unconditionally while Savarkar himself was released on conditions. This cannot be termed as mercy, he added.
Raut cited reference in a book by author Y D Phadke which says a letter by Savarkar has been misconstrued as mercy, it was a strategic act to get released from jail. Even though he mentioned that he was ready to cooperate with the British government, it was a strategic move and should not be taken on face value, the Sena leader said further quoting the book.
Even Mahatma Gandhi through his article in Young India on May 26, 1920 demanded that Savarkar and his brother be released. An annual convention of the Congress in 1923 also passed a resolution demanding the release of Savarkar, he said.
Raut also said if Savarkar regretted his earlier ''violent method'' against the British to seek release from jail, it should not be construed as surrender but a strategy.
''Today, many leaders surrender to the central government out of fear of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), change parties and give up loyalty. Savarkar suffered for more than 10 years in the Andaman jail for the country's freedom,'' he said.
The criticism of Savarkar was not the agenda of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, he said. ''By speaking against Savarkar, Rahul Gandhi doused the positive energy and confidence generated by the Bharat Jodo Yatra,'' Raut claimed.
He further said the BJP has not given Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, to Savarkar despite being in power for eight years. The RSS has been a critic of Savarkar, he added.''Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not stop maligning (India's first prime minister) Nehru, and Rahul Gandhi also does the same with Savarkar. This is not the agenda before the country. How can India be united in such circumstances,'' Raut said.