Police stepped up security at Shegaon in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district on Friday ahead of the public rally of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whose remarks on Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar have triggered a controversy and protests.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Gandhi reached Shegaon this morning and he is scheduled to address the rally in the evening.
Since Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers have planned to protest against Gandhi over his remarks against Savarkar, security has been beefed up, an official said.
At least 1,700 policemen along with the companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and the Quick Response Team (QRT) are being deployed at Shegaon, he said.
The police will carry out ‘nakabandi’ (road block checks) to stop MNS workers from entering the venue of the rally, the official said, adding that 700 personnel, some of them in plain clothes, will be deployed at the ground.
The MNS had on Thursday warned that it would show black flags to Gandhi at Shegaon as a mark of protest over his remarks against Savarkar.
Gandhi had held a press conference at Wadegaon in Akola district on Thursday, where he claimed that Savarkar helped the British rulers and wrote a mercy petition to them out of fear, thereby betraying Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the freedom struggle.
Two days prior to that, Gandhi had addressed a rally in Washim district organised as part of his yatra, where he called Savarkar a symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “He was jailed in Andaman for two-three years. He started writing mercy petitions,” the Congress MP had said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, the faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, have criticised Gandhi over the remarks. The workers of these parties held protests against him on Thursday. Uddhav Thackeray, whose faction of the Sena is in alliance with the Congress, has also disapproved of Gandhi’s statements against Savarkar.