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President unveils Savarkar portrait
February 26, 2003 16:41 IST
President A P J Abdul Kalam unveiled a portrait of Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly called Veer Savarkar, in the Central Hall of Parliament on Wednesday.
Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and a host of Union ministers were present at the function, which was boycotted by the entire opposition, barring former prime minister Chandrashekhar
As the President unveiled the portrait, the Central Hall reverberated with chants of Swatantryaveer Savarkar Amar Rahe and Jab tak Suraj Chand rahega, Savarkar tera naam rahega [Long live Savarkar].
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the event. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had on Tuesday joined leaders of other opposition parties and written to Kalam asking him not to attend the function.
After the President unveiled the portrait, the vice-president, prime minister, deputy prime minister and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj offered floral tributes to it.
The Swatantryaveer Savarkar Seva Kendra and the Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak Samiti from Mumbai jointly presented the portrait, drawn by Chandrakala Kumar Kadam, to Parliament.
The opposition's decision to boycott the function had come under flak from the government, the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Sushma Swaraj dismissed the controversy saying opposition members were present in the meeting of the concerned parliamentary committee, which took the decision to hang the portrait of Savarkar in the Central Hall.
The leaders of the non-Congress opposition parties, including the BJP's ally the Bahujan Samaj Party, had announced their decision to dissociate from the function saying that they did not want to 'give credibility' to the activities and 'divisive policies' of Savarkar.