In an attempt to popularise the legacy of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the Yogi Adityanath cabinet in Uttar Pradesh has approved a proposal to rename the iconic Mughalsarai railway station near Varanasi after the Jan Sangh leader.
The move, though seemingly innocuous, betrays the ruling dispensation's desire to project Upadhyaya as its new national political icon. It is not an isolated incident.
The fact that Upadhyaya was mentioned alongside Mahatma Gandhi in President Ram Nath Kovind's recent speech on the floor of the House substantiates this claim further. Equating Upadhyaya with Gandhi, while ignoring Jawaharlal Nehru, irked the Congress.
Calling the move an insult to martyrs and freedom fighters, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told The Indian Express: "...equating Upadhyaya with Gandhiji is an insult to the nation and also an insult to Gandhiji, martyrs and freedom fighters of the country. How can you equate the leader of just a party — that too at that time he was the leader of a non-existent party… the BJP — with Gandhiji. It is an insult. These things should not have happened in this (Kovind's) first address."
One of the most important leaders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the present day Bharatiya Janata Party, Upadhyaya's shadow looms large over the minds of the current BJP leaders. This, in addition to the fact that BJP has for always longed for an icon of its own.
As argued in Firstpost earlier, "The BJP's problem is that it doesn't know how to come to terms with Gandhi's legacy. In its politics of symbolism, it tries to subconsciously embrace his ideals – of course, without accepting it boldly – but it simultaneously holds a grudge against the Mahatma for representing some of the very ideals it detests."
"Its ideological fathers, Guru Golwalkar or KB Hedgewar, may be the ruling deities of the Sangh, but outside its haloed precincts in Nagpur, not many identify with their ideology or politics. Its other hero, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, is a controversial subject with his history of seeking clemency from the British and charges of involvement in the Mahatma's assassination."
Thus, BJP has left no stone unturned in promoting the architect of Bharatiya Jana Sangh:
- Last year in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had constituted two committees for the commemoration of the centenary of Upadhyaya. Modi, while addressing the BJP National Council Meeting in Kozhikode, said: "Pandit Upadhyaya said do not reward Muslims, do not rebuke them, but purify them. Do not treat Muslims like vote ki mandi ka maal (vote banks) or ghrina ki vastu (object of hatred). Unhe apna samjho (regard them as your own)."
- In March, the Rajasthan government asked all secondary and senior secondary schools to purchase a collection of essays and speeches by Upadhyaya, a move which drew accusations of saffronisation of education.
- In April, it was announced that the Agra airport would be named after Upadhyaya.
- In May, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha launched a skill development scheme named after Upadhyaya that will train rural youth to maintain mobile towers, repair optical fibres and fix other communication technologies across India.
- In July, Modi launched the ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’ for power sector reforms in rural areas with a view to ensuring round the clock electricity supply to farmers and rural households.
- In July this year, the Haryana government decided that youth centres would be established in Upadhyaya's name in all districts of the state at a cost of about Rs 3 crore each.
- The BJP plans to organise a quiz on Upadhyaya, which will be held across Uttar Pradesh on 26 August for students in classes 9th and 10th. The quiz will be conducted by the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Janma Shatabdi Samaroh Samiti.
The Congress, meanwhile, accused the BJP of attempting to "distort" the glorious history of the country in the garb of the quiz. "The quiz is a deliberate attempt to distort the role played by our revered freedom fighters in the freedom struggle. People of the country will never forgive the BJP for their act," Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh said.
The Congress may crib but the reality is the BJP has found someone who it believes can be a match to the Mahatma, an icon it can call its own.
With inputs from PTI
Published Date: Aug 04, 2017 02:51 pm | Updated Date: Aug 04, 2017 04:26 pm