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Nehru out, Savarkar in for National Flag ad in Karnataka’s new row

Bengaluru: A controversial advertisement published by the Karnataka government for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign and as a tribute to freedom fighters, has been slammed by the state’s opposition Congress. The advertisement omits the photo of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and includes Vinayak Savarkar of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, titled Revolutionary Savarkar.

The full-page advertisement was published this morning – August 14 — the day designated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day”.

On social media, the BJP and the Congress have clashed over a video the ruling party tweeted, holding Nehru and Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah responsible for the partition.

The two parties had sparred on the issue through the morning, with Congress’s Jairam Ramesh alleging that the “real intent of PM to mark Aug 14 as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day is to use the most traumatic historical events as fodder for his current political battles”.

In Karnataka, the ruling BJP said they chose not to include Nehru’s photograph.

“Because of Nehru India is divided into India and Pakistan. That is why his photo was omitted in the newspaper,” said BJP spokesperson Mr Ravi Kumar. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he said, had “struggled for our freedom so his photo was included”.

“So are Jhansi Rani, Gandhi, and Savarkar. Nehru was the country’s first Prime Minister. He fought for our Independence but he divided our country,” he added.

Leaders of the Congress alleged this was just a politically motivated move of the state’s BJP government and demanded that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai be sacked.

“It is a shame on Indian’s democracy and freedom. India is celebrating 75 years of Independence. The Prime Minister should sack Basavaraj Bommai and we are seeking an apology,” said state Congress chief DK Shivakumar.

Other Congress leaders — including former Union minister Jairam Ramesh and Karnataka’s leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah — have sharply criticised the state government for including Savarkar’s image.

“Nehru will survive such pettiness. CM Karnataka desperate to save his job knows what he has done is an insult to his father SR Bommai & his father’s 1st political guru MN Roy — both great Nehru admirers, the latter being a friend as well. Pathetic this is,” tweeted Jairam Ramesh.

“Karnataka’s BJP government may deliberately omit Nehru, India’s 1st PM from its Independence Day Advertisement, but they can neither erase history nor rewrite history. The maker of Modern, Socialist, Secular & Progressive India will always be remembered by every Indian as they March ahead,” tweeted Dr Syed Naseer Hussain, MP Rajya Sabha.

“When we thought slavery ended with the British gone, @CMofKarnataka @BSBommai proved everyone wrong by showing that he is still a slave to @RSSorg,”tweeted Siddaramaiah.

“Not including #PanditJawaharlalNehru in the list of freedom fighters in today’s govt ad shows how low a CM can go to save his chair,” he added.

This is the latest controversy to hit the campaign that’s meant to take the flag to every home for the 75th year of India’s Independence.

Earlier the state and the Central government were criticised for distributing substandard national flags and forcing the poor to buy flag in return for food rations. There have been reports of forced flag sales at schools as well.