The comments, however, did not go down well with the Congress party, an alliance partner of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Mumbai: Shiv Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut on Saturday said that those who oppose Bharat Ratna — the highest civilian honour in India — for Veer Savarkar should be sent for two days to Andaman's cellular jail, where Savarkar was lodged, to realise the Hindutva ideologue’s sacrifice and contribution.
“Savarkar’s opponents should spend two days in the (erstwhile) Andaman Cellular Jail to understand the hardships he was put through by the British,” Mr Raut said.
The comments, however, did not go down well with the Congress party, an alliance partner of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena immediately went into damage control mode. The Shiv Sena leader and Cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray said that Mr Raut's remark was his personal opinion and not his party’s stand.
Within hours of the statement, Congress' state spokesperson Sachin Sawant tweeted, “Savarkar was different before 1911. The Congress is against his post-1923 ideology”.
Reacting to Raut's comments, Mr Thackeray said there was no need to dig into the past. He said he was not aware in which capacity Raut made the statement. “The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) speaks for the aspirations of the people. Despite having different ideologies, the two parties have come together in the interest of the country and the state. Democracy means different ideologies can work together in the interest of the country,” the Cabinet minister said.
“We must learn from history and keep history as history. We should move forward,” he added.
Political observers said that Mr Raut could have made such a statement to divert the attention from his remarks on Shivaji Maharaj and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The Congress is against offering the Bharat Ratna to Mr Savarkar, who is hailed by the right-wing parties — BJP and Shiv Sena. Savarkar has become a major political issue in Maharashtra ever since former Congress president Rahul Gandhi refused to apologise for his ‘rape in India’ remark in December last year, stating, “My name is Rahul Gandhi, not Rahul Savarkar”.