Pragya Singh Thakur, the terror accused in the Malegaon case now out on bail on health grounds, that do not seem to hold up as she is campaigning hard as the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, is an ardent votary of Hindutva, that is not linked to the idea of being a practising Hindu. As such, her praise of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, as a “patriot” comes as no surprise. It would have been surprising if her ideological moorings didn't lead her there.
Hindutva is an ideological species. It's not a religious category. There is no common ground between a temple-going Hindu and the idea of Hindutva. One isn't an offshoot of the other. It's noteworthy that the man who propounded the idea of Hindutva, D.V. Savarkar, was a practising atheist. In the Gandhi assassination case, he escaped the noose on a technicality.
The RSS, with which not just Pragya Thakur but key BJP members are aligned, subscribes to Hindutva, whose principal precept is the establishment of a “Hindu Rashtra”, or Hindu nation. This is in contrast to the Indian nation, whose value system arose from India's freedom struggle and is enshrined in our Constitution.
Gandhi is the foremost torchbearer of republican India. “Hindu India” finds that repugnant. Unlike other Indians, those affiliated to Hindu Rashtra in any fashion don’t see Gandhi as the “Father of the Nation”. Indeed, they do not see emancipation from colonial rule as a “freedom struggle”. Their freedom struggle was the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
In the sub-culture of the Hindutva brigade, Mahatma Gandhi is a despised figure. Since the Narendra Modi government took office in 2014 with a BJP majority, many BJP MPs — and ministers — praised Godse without being ticked off. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had come out in strong support of fielding Ms Thakur as their party’s candidate to oppose the Congress’ Digivijay Singh since he had reportedly denounced those accused in the Malegaon blast, in which the victims were Muslims, as “Hindu terrorists” in the same loose way as people use the expression “Islamic terrorists” when they in fact mean “Islamist”. Especially in light of this, it's not surprising that BJP stalwarts have taken their time in censuring Ms Thakur. Perhaps they were calculating the pluses and minuses of her obnoxious remarks on the BJP’s poll prospects. Contrast this with their pouncing on Sam Pitroda's comment on the anti-Sikh violence in 1984. Congress president Rahul Gandhi condemned his colleague's remark and even asked him to apologise, but BJP leaders didn't seem impressed. Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah has pithily asked: “If Godse is a patriot, what does that make Gandhi if not anti-national?” The BJP could try to answer that.