The ruling BJP and Opposition, including the Congress party, were on Thursday at daggers drawn over the issue of conferring the Bharat Ratna to RSS ideologue Savarkar.

The issue has charged up the political atmosphere not only in the poll-bound state of Maharashtra, which will go to the polls on 21 October with Haryana but the entire country.

At the core of the entire debate on whether Savarkar should be bestowed with the country’s top civilian award is a promise made to that effect by the BJP in its Sankalpa Patra or election manifesto for Maharashtra.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his long-time political associate and now Union Home Minister Amit Shah have been leading a frontal attack against the Opposition parties over their strong opposition to Bharat Ratna to Savarkar alleging his complicity in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, a charge being vociferously denied by the BJP and its Sangh affiliates such as RSS.

Hitting out at the Opposition, Modi said a section of people in the country was hell-bent on maligning Veer Savarkar. He said it was on account of Savarkar’s ‘samskar’ that had prompted his government to make Rashtravad a pivot of Rashtra Nirman or nation-building. He said the same set of people who humiliated Ambedkar “call Savarkar names and humiliate him”.

BJP president Amit Shah strongly pitching for Bharat Ratna to Savarkar credited him with terming the Sepoy mutiny of 1857 as India’s first struggle for freedom from British colonial rule.

“There are very few people like Savarkar who are patriots and very few families like Savarkar’s who make sacrifices for the nation. There is no other person in this country who was tortured in jail and forced to extract coconut oil from coir,” the Home Minister said in an interview to a private television channel.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, seeing to counter the opposition charge against Savarkar, claimed that not only did Mahatma Gandhi call Savarkar a true patriot and brave person but the erstwhile Congress government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi praised him and issued a postal stamp on him.

Quoting a letter dated 29 May 1980 by Indira Gandhi, Patra said in the letter the late PM had written that Veer Savarkar’s defiance of British government has its own place in India’s freedom struggle.

Union Minister Jitender Singh also tweeted saying how Indira Gandhi praised Veer Savarkar in her letter. Another Union Minister Nitin Gadkari accused the Congress party of humiliating Savarkar. About the opposition charge that Savarkar was one of the suspects in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Gadkari said Savarkar had no hand in the Mahatma’s killing. He said Savarkar and his family had sacrificed themselves for the country.