Pune: Reversing his stand, Marathi literary meet chief Sripal Sabnis on Tuesday tendered an apology to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bid to defuse the controversy over his remarks about the latter's surprise visit to Pakistan.
At a hurriedly called press conference this evening, Sabnis, the president of the 89th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (All India Marathi literary meet) who has drawn flak and angry protests from BJP activists, said he had written a letter to the Prime Minister expressing apology for the use of words which were construed as offending.
In the morning, Sabnis, who had said he had even received threats to his life for his remarks, had refused to tender an apology.
In his controversial remarks, Sabnis, an eminent writer, had said Modi could have fallen to a bullet or a bomb explosion at the Lahore airport during his surprise visit to Pakistan on 25 December and that a condolence meeting would have been organised first for the prime minister instead of the Marathi poet Mangesh Padgaonkar, who died recently.
"I am restless, pained and feeling sorry. I am withdrawing my words. I hope you will give your best wishes to the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan to be held at Pimpri, Pune," Sabnis said in the letter.
Refusing to take any questions, he said, "The controversy is over and I appeal to all lovers of Marathi literature to forget the episode and work to make the Sammelan a success."
The BJP welcomed the apology.
"We welcome his apology and hope he will not create more controversies from the platform of the literary meet," State BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said.
The three-day Sammelan will be held at Pimpri near here from 16-18 January and the controversial comments by Sabnis about Modi had led to speculation that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devednra Fadnavis would keep away from the event in a departure from the tradition.
Earlier in the morning, a defiant Sabnis had said he would not tender an apology and was not afraid of any threats to his life. Saying that he would not even retract any of his statements, he urged Fadnavis to attend the Sammelan.
Sabnis, considered a writer with leftist leanings, had earlier also supported the "award wapsi" campaign by writers and artistes against the perceived intolerance under the NDA government led by Modi.
An effigy of the writer was paraded on a donkey by BJP MP Amar Sable at Pimpri venue of the Sammelan while the party called for his apology.