Congress alleged that ‘BJP is trying to hijack Mahatma Gandhi’s Legacy’. The Narendra Modi government’s aggressive promotion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was targeted by the Congress, citing that the ideologies of both, BJP and RSS, are opposite to that of Mahatma Gandhi. And it’s the Congress party which has always adopted ideologies of ‘Father of the Nation’; thus they claimed the grand promotion by the Narendra Modi government for this 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji was just eyewash.
The point here is can any party or community claim the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi? Is Congress trying to limit Gandhiji’s legacy just to a political party? The more important question is whether present Congress even inherits the legacy of the Congress party of the pre-independence era where Mahatma Gandhi was an important part?
I have written in this platform through an article ‘On the Congress claim over the legacy of independence struggle’ how the present Congress party even doesn’t inherit the old congress party, post the vertical split of the Indian National Congress in 1969 into Congress (R) and Congress (O).
Then Congress (O) headed by K.Kamaraj, was recognised as the original Congress party and given the original election symbol of ‘A pair of bullock carrying a Yoke’. This was also called Old Congress. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) is called a new Congress and given the electoral symbol of ‘Cow with suckling calf’. It’s another matter that the real heir of the Indian National Congress subsequently merged with the Janata Party after it’s decimation by Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) in the 1971 general election.
The Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) further split after Jagajjivan Ram rebelled in 1978, and the Indira Gandhi led fraction called Congress (I), which got another new electoral symbol ‘Hand’. It’s since the era of Congress (I) when Congress purely became a dynastic party, which was subsequently inherited by Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and at present Rahul Gandhi although Congress (I) dropped the suffix ‘I” in 1996.
It’s an open secret, that since the Indira Gandhi led became the New Congress (or say Congress (R) to Congress (I) and then INC), not only Mahatma Gandhi but also Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and many other tall leaders have been forgotten.
In my opinion, these leaders were only remembered on their birth anniversary or death anniversary symbolically although Pundit Nehru was promoted to a great extent (I don’t think to promote Nehru’s legacy is wrong, however ignoring the legacy of other tall leaders amount to selective promotion). Even in the naming of places, programs, awards, and institutions, all those tall leaders, including Gandhiji didn’t feature. It’s just Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who featured everywhere. Thus, according to me, the Congress claiming the Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy as their own is laughable, in fact, it doesn’t even inherit the legacy of the original Congress party!
Now coming back to ideological differences between Mahatma Gandhi and RSS-BJP. Well, there were differences but then there were agreements too, Gandhi attended an RSS camp in 1947 and applauded RSS workers. What did that mean? Despite a lot of differences, both Gandhi and RSS agreed on some points too and that’s the spirit of democracy. It’s always said that Sardar Patel banned RSS on 4th February 1948 post the assassination of Gandhiji. But then, not to forget, that same Sardar Patel lifted the ban on RSS in 1949 (and claimed as unconditional lifting). Not only that, even Pundit Nehru invited RSS to take part in the Republic day parade of 1963.
Well, I am not an admirer of RSS. The above is just to present the facts. The point is simply, that even if ideologies are different, people or parties can find some common causes for the interest of the society and country. RSS was cleared of Gandhiji’s assassination by the committee and the myths and facts on RSS and Gandhiji’s assassination are in the open domain.
Before coming to that question, let’s realise that the New Congress formed by Indira Gandhi forgot/ignored tall leaders like Sardar Patel, Gandhi, Shastri and Many others. Narendra Modi from the very beginning, when he was CM of Gujrat, displayed through his program, that he is an admirer of Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi.
One can understand that both Patel and Gandhiji were Gujarati and Modi was doing politics of ‘Gujarat Asmita’. Thus, the Gujarat Pride politics has a minimum requirement of giving respect to the tall leaders from Gujarat. But then after being elected as PM of India in 2014, Narendra Modi constantly revived the legacy of Gandhi and Patel. He started the ‘Swachh Bharat’ program on 2nd October 2014. Every birth and death anniversary of Gandhi and Patel were and are being made big events under his central government. The 150th birth anniversary too is being celebrated even internationally.
Now let’s forget for a moment the names of Narendra Modi and the BJP party. Shouldn’t any government who is in power, organise such big events on this occasion, for a person whom we call ‘father of the nation?’ So, what’s wrong if the present BJP government celebrates this through mega-events? Is the celebration by the government of India, headed by Narendra Modi, akin to highjacking a legacy?
I believe that the problem with the Congress and some other parties is that they forgot Gandhi and Patel when they were in power. Thus, the insecurity and awkwardness are haunting back to them, when they find that their forgotten heroes are being presented again in the national and international stage giving prominence to their legacy. If you forget your heroes, what’s wrong if someone else celebrates them?
In the article, ‘Why India and the World need Gandhi’ by Narendra Modi published in ‘New York Times’ on 2nd October 2019, the PM clearly argues that the legacy of Gandhi belongs to the world and total humanity.
He didn’t claim the legacy of Gandhiji for himself or his party. He argued that Gandhi’s legacy has no limit and his ideologies are applicable in every country and every era.
Now find the difference. Congress claims the inheritance of Gandhi’s legacy, whereas Narendra Modi argues that Gandhi is a universal legacy and belongs to the world. Readers now need to differentiate between both arguments and decide whether Narendra Modi is highjacking Gandhi’s legacy or promoting it for the betterment of the world, deservingly.