Bengaluru/New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday took a strong exception to the exclusion of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the Karnataka government's newspaper advertisement on freedom fighters and termed the BJP action "pathetic".
Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah called Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai an "RSS slave", while AICC general secretary and in-charge of the party affairs in the state Randeep Surjewala said the BJP's hatred for the country's first prime minister had reached its zenith.
The state BJP, however, said it omitted Nehru's picture "intentionally".
"Nehru will survive such pettiness. CM Karnataka, desperate to save his job knows what he has done is an insult to his father S R Bommai and his father's 1st political guru M N Roy, both great Nehru admirers, the latter being a friend as well. Pathetic this is," Jairam Ramesh, Congress general secretary, communications, said on Twitter.
"Unending hatred for India's 1st PM and Nation builder, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has reached its zenith. Bommai Government stoops to the lowest by denying his very existence," Surjewala said in a tweet.
"On the 75th Anniversary of Independence, it reflects the character and vicious thought process of present day rulers," he alleged.
In a series of tweets, Siddaramaiah, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, attacked V D Savarkar -- his picture features in the government's advertisement -- accusing him of pleading with British officials and acting as their "stooge" for his survival.
"When we thought slavery ended with the British gone, CM of Karnataka Bommai proved everyone wrong by showing that he is still a slave to RSS. Not including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the list of freedom fighters in today's govt ad shows how low a CM can go to save his chair," he said.
Noting that Bommai should remember that Nehru had written letters and books to inspire people to participate in the freedom movement even while he was jailed for nine years, the former chief minister said, "Looks like RSS is sad that Nehru did not write apology and mercy petitions to British like Savarkar."
"By omitting Nehru from the list of freedom fighters, Bommai has humiliated the entire nation in front of the world. Slow claps to Basavaraj Bommai for giving an opportunity to the rest of the world to mock India," he said, as he demanded the chief minister tender an apology to the entire nation.
The Karnataka government's advertisement as part of the Independence Day celebrations highlights the contributions and sacrifices of some prominent freedom icons in the state and at the national level.
Claiming that the RSS hated Nehru because he had not only vociferously opposed its communalism and its support to "murder" Mahatma Gandhi but had also banned it, Siddaramaiah asked, "But, what is wrong with you Mr Bommai?"
"Bommai govt's ad clearly shows that RSS does not have anyone from its organisation to show as freedom fighters other than Savarkar who pleaded with British officials and acted as their stooge for his survival. This display of insecurity has exposed the true role of RSS in the freedom movement," he said.
Citing the arrangement of pictures of the national icons in the advertisement, Siddaramaiah said, "Savarkar, who pleaded with British officers to get himself released from the jail, gets a position in the front row. But, Baba Saheb (Ambedkar), who fought for freedom by being the voice of marginalised sections, gets placed in the last row. Blatant display of untouchability by Karnataka BJP. Sad."
State Congress president D K Shivakumar, too, accused the government of trying to distort history and said he did not expect this from Bommai.
"Is it a humiliation to you to include Nehru Mr CM? You can't change history. Other than being in jail, and giving away his (Nehru) property, he was the first prime minister during whose tenure the Constitution and national flag came. He has given everything. I don't know why you are doing it. This is not Karnataka's culture," he said.
Shivakumar even wrote to Bommai in this connection, asking him to apologise for the mistake and "restore the historic truth".
State BJP General Secretary N Ravi Kumar said, "We have left out (Nehru) intentionally. When we are observing 'Partition Horrors Remembrance Day' today on the call given by our prime minister, what is the meaning in using his photograph?"
Alleging that Nehru did not heed Mahatma Gandhi's stand to dissolve the Congress after independence, he said, "Nehru was a person who did not heed Gandhi. He was responsible for Partition, which saw massive bloodshed of common people. So, we did not put up his photograph."