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Will Savarkar lift BJP-Sena?
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | September 04, 2004
Ahead of the assembly election in Maharashtra, the Congress has given the Bharatiya Janata Party an issue to raise: Veer Savarkar.
Congress leader and Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar recently ordered the removal of a plaque with a message by Savarkar from the historical Cellular Jail on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Now the BJP and its alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, want him to apologise.
The Congress and the government, meanwhile, have distanced themselves from the issue.
The BJP's youth wing has now organised a signature campaign in Mumbai and its members are going around town in a 'Savarkar Rath' -- a jeep converted into a chariot.
What more, a person dressed as Savarkar stands in it.
They shout slogans against the Congress and Aiyer.
The youth wing's vice-president, Sunil Abrol, says, "We are approaching people and asking them to support us in the name of Savarkar.
"He was a freedom fighter. Who is Aiyar to comment on him? We are also criticising Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, because being a Maratha, he should oppose Aiyar."
The BJP and Shiv Sena are trying their best to derive political mileage out of the issue.
In fact, the BJP is organising a protest march in different parts of Maharashtra.
In the recently held general election, the BJP-Sena combine fared very badly in Mumbai, winning only one seat; the Congress won the rest five.
Photograph: Arun Patil