New Delhi: BJP on Friday sought to take a "balanced view" of different opinions within the party on the
controversial biography of Mahatma Gandhi by Joseph Lelyveld, saying that it believes in both freedom of speech and respect to people`s sentiments.
Caught in a bind over Gujarat government banning Lelyveld`s book and senior party leader Jaswant Singh expressing his views against proscribing of books, it was a tight-rope walk for the BJP.
"Mahatma Gandhi is not just an icon but also the Father of the Nation. There should be due reverence to his persona. But we also believe in freedom of the press," BJP spokesperson
Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Asked if the BJP supported the ban imposed by the Narendra Modi government on the book, Prasad said the state government is free to do so and has "the right to exercise its
discretion" in doing so.
"Gandhiji was from Gujarat and if the people of the state want to ban the book, their sentiments should be respected," Prasad said.
Singh`s reported comments against proscribing books is in contrast to Modi`s decision. Incidentally, Modi had banned Singh`s controversial book on Pakistan-founder Mohammad Ali
Jinnah in 2009. The book had led to Singh`s ouster from the party but he made a comeback a year later.
The ban on "MA Jinnah- India Partition Independence" was lifted by the Gujarat High Court.
Defending the BJP`s position on Lelyveld`s book, which allegedly calls Gandhi a bisexual, Prasad said, "We try to strike a balance between freedom of the press and sentiments of the people."