On Thursday, Pragya Singh Thakur, a parliamentary candidate from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, said in response to a question from a reporter that Godse “was, is and will remain a patriot.”
Despite the charges, the BJP chose Thakur to run for a seat in Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Senior party leaders have attended her campaign events and endorsed her run for office, which appears to be the first time a major party in India has fielded a candidate accused of involvement in a terrorist conspiracy.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the party distanced the BJP from Thakur’s lionization of Gandhi’s assassin. “We strongly condemn this particular statement,” G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told reporters. Thakur, he said, should offer a “public apology.”
Randeep Surjewala, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party, said in a statement that Thakur’s comment “crossed all limits” and called for her withdrawal from the race. “India’s soul is again under attack,” he said.
Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, was once a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a strident Hindu nationalist organization that is the parent of the BJP. After Gandhi was killed, the group was briefly outlawed. In recent decades, it has moved from the fringes of public debate in India to the mainstream. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent most of his career as an RSS organizer.
Godse was sentenced to death and executed in 1949.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the year that Gandhi was assassinated. He was killed in 1948, not 1947.