New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday praised Vinayak Damodar Savarkar amid a row over his party, the BJP, propping up the Hindutva ideologue’s name for the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour.

The party, in its manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly polls, has promised to raise demand for Bharat Ratna for Savarkar as well as social reformers Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule.

Speaking at an event in Varanasi on Thursday, Shah, who is also the national president of the BJP, said that but for Savarkar, the rebellion of 1857 wouldn’t have become a part of history. The Union Home Minister said, “Had it not been for Veer Savarkar, the rebellion of 1857 would not have become history, we would have seen it from the point of view of Britishers. Veer Savarkar was the one who named the 1857 rebellion as the first independence struggle.”

A day earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a rally in poll-bound Maharashtra’s Akola, too, had praised Savarkar, saying that it was due to him that the BJP had made nationalism one of the basic principles of nation-building.

The ‘Bharat Ratna for Savarkar’ demand has, however, evoked strong objection from the opposition with the Congress’ Manish Tewari even suggesting that the BJP might as well confer the Bharat Ratna upon Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.

Maharashtra will vote in single-phase elections on October 21. The result will be announced on October 24.