A BJP parliamentarian from Maharashtra, Gopal Shetty on Friday withdrew his resignation after stoking a major controversy with his comment that "Christians are angrez and hence did not contribute to the freedom struggle".
He made the controversial remark by addressing a gathering for the Eid-e-Milad organised by the Shia Kabrastan Committee in Mumbai on Sunday.
"India was not freed by Hindus...India was not freed by Muslims, we fought as one for our independence. Christians were angrez (British), so they didn't participate in India's freedom struggle," he can be heard as saying in a video.
The Congress was soon to reply on the comments and demanded Mr Shetty's resignation, calling him a repeat offender. "Shetty has a history of inappropriate remarks," said Mumbai Congress leader Bhushan Patil.
Shetty, an MP representing Mumbai North in parliament, however, denied the criticisms, saying that his words were wrongly interpreted. He further said that he has not said anything which could subject him to an apology.
Sharply criticizing Shetty, Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said: "It reflects despicably communal mindset of the BJP. Freedom struggle is the epitome of sacrifices made by all communities including Christians. Shetty must know that only RSS was in support of the British."
Condemning the "anti-minority remarks", Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam demanded that Shetty must tender "an apology to the entire Christian community of India as he has no knowledge of history or the contribution of the Christians in the independence movement".
On Friday, All India Mahila Congress General Secretary Janet Desouza and Mumbai Mahila Congress President Ajanta Yadav held a protest outside Shetty's office in Borivali West.
Two Christian residents from Malad - Mavis Fernandes and Jerard Lobo - submitted a written complaint against Shetty to police in Malvani, demanding action against the MP for promoting enmity between communities.
Malvani Congress legislator Aslam Shaikh pointed out that though small in numbers, the Christian community contributed significantly to the freedom struggle and also in nation building.
As the issue snowballed, Shetty on Thursday appeared to backtrack and said it was "a miscommunication and misinterpretation", adding that people from every religion contributed to the freedom struggle.
Going further on the defensive on Friday, Shetty said "he was a responsible person with a long political career behind him and would never think embarrassing the BJP top leadership", hinting at submitting his resignation.
However, on Friday, BJP state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari told the media that the party's top leaders and state BJP President Raosaheb Patil-Danve have spoken with Shetty and the party stood by him.
Agitated members of the Christian community flooded the social media with names of prominent persons who had taken an active part in the freedom struggle, stood with leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and made many sacrifices on the personal and family fronts.
They included Thevarthundiyil Titus and his wife Annamma, Accamma Cherian whom Gandhi called the 'Jhansi ki Rani of Travancore', Christian missionaries like Stanley Jones, C.F. Andrews, J.C. Wilson, Ernest Forrester-Paton, Ralph R. Keitahn, Varrier Elwin, John J. Cornelius, J.C. Kumarappa, Paul Ramaswamy, T.M. Verghese, A.J. John, Anne Mascarenhas, Joachim Alva and many more.
Earlier in the day, reports were going rounds that Shetty had submitted his resignation to BJP chief Amit Shah.
This is not the first time that Gopal Shetty has run into major trouble. Two years ago, Shetty had stirred widespread criticism by describing farmer suicides as "fashion".
He had said: "All suicides do not happen because of unemployment or hunger. It has become fashion these days. If the Maharashtra Government is giving Rs. 5 lakh as compensation, the other state gives 7 and the next 8 lakh. There is competition in giving compensation to farmers."