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Congress set to dive into history to reclaim Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha meet as party readies itself to combat Narendra Modi

On 14 July, 1942, the Congress Working Committee meeting in Wardha adopted Mahatma Gandhi's proposal to launch the Quit India movement the following month in what became the coup de grace to turn the British out of India.

On the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma on 2 October, 2018, the Congress Working Committee is revisiting history by meeting in Sevagram Ashram, Wardha, to launch a movement to get the country rid of BJP and the power it wields today.

 Congress set to dive into history to reclaim Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha meet as party readies itself to combat Narendra Modi

File image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Agencies

The slogan that has been coined to carry this new 'movement' of the Congress has a catchy ring to it in Hindi — Loot-Jhoot-Bhay-Bantware Ka Sangram, Phir Sevagram (War against loot, lies, fear and divisions, Sevagram again).

In this crucial election year, Mahatma Gandhi's service to the nation is being pressed into service again by the Congress, the party under whose banner he fought for the country's freedom. Besides, it's a discreet attempt at reclaiming the leader who was appropriated by the BJP with the inauguration of Narendra Modi's tenure in 2014.

Political watchers may remember Modi's strong push to claim two prominent Congress leaders of pre-independent India — Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel — for the nation at large, soon after he became the prime minister, leaving the Congress befuddled.

The Modi government is getting Patel’s statue— the ‘Statue of Unity’— the world’s tallest statue — built in Gujarat as a tribute to the leader.

With ‘Sevagram again’, the Congress is definitely dipping into history to not only reclaim Gandhi as the party's icon but also to perhaps have his ideologies help the party deliver results in the forthcoming elections.

Will the history lesson, however, help Congress connect with the electorate that is hungry for clean governance and development?

Even though Gandhi continues to be relevant in 21st century India, will the Congress succeed in convincing the electorate about its honesty to follow Gandhi?

“Median voters of India are not looking to the past but are concerned about the future. Ninety percent of young Indians will not get influenced by past references that Congress has been trying to use to resurrect party’s future. Rahul Gandhi who’s relatively youthful is saddled with a geriatric team of leaders, which is unfortunate,” MD Nalapat, political analyst and director, department of Geopolitics, Manipal University told Firstpost.

Congress’ Wardha plan

The Congress has planned a series of events to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.

The party will give a call against the Modi government – ‘to free the country from the atmosphere of corruption, fear, intolerance and violence’ at Wardha, on 2 October.

The Congress will kick-start the day by offering prayer at Bapu Kutir, Sevagram Ashram. It’ll be followed by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting at 12.30 pm at the same venue.

According to sources, the party after remembering the contribution of Gandhi in the nation’s freedom struggle may pass a resolution against the BJP-led government at the Centre for the alleged rise in intolerance, violence and an atmosphere of fear.

After garlanding the statue of Gandhi near Collector’s office, a procession in the form of ‘Padyatra’ will be taken out from Babasaheb Ambedkar statue to Circus ground, where a ‘Sankalp Rally’ has been organised.

“The CWC had adopted Mahatma Gandhi's proposal to launch the Quit India movement at Wardha on 14 July, 1942 against the then exploitative British rule. Today again there’s a need for a struggle for deliverance from the BJP government, which has become a symbol of corruption, arrogance and exploitation. Today, after 71 years of Independence, following the footsteps of Gandhi, the Congress party led by its president Rahul Gandhi will fight against socio-economic evils like corruption, bank scams, Rafael scam, farmers’ distress, growing unemployment, atrocities against women and dalits, etc, so that people can get rid of BJP rule,” said AICC in-charge, Communication, Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Besides Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are expected to participate in the day’s event along with top party leaders.

The party will also begin its nationwide door-to-door fundraising campaign from 2 October. Named as ‘Mission Rs 500 crore’, the campaign will conclude on the birth anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on 19 November.

Is this a part of Congress’ poll strategy?       

The Congress party, which had faced a major electoral debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha election, lost one state after another in subsequent years. At present, the party is in power in Punjab, Puducherry and Mizoram, and is an alliance partner in Karnataka.

With five state polls around the corner and the forthcoming 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Congress needs solid issues to take BJP head on. The party’s plan to enter into a pre-poll alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party in poll-bound states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh has already fallen flat. The Congress also requires to reposition itself as a strong anti-BJP force in order to fulfil its ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) dream.

At present, Congress is also failing to create a mass movement like Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement, to win over voters.

However, political pundits may differ with Congress’ justification and strategy of using Mahatma Gandhi and Wardha, to launch an attack against the Modi government.

“The fear that Congress is talking about that the people are facing under the present government is due to the harsh bureaucratic laws. Since Independence, the successive Congress governments, instead of bringing any reforms to our system, retained the harsh colonial laws enacted during the British rule. Subsequently, former Union minister P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal during the UPA tenure also introduced harsh laws. The root cause of the problem is the immense and unholy power of the bureaucracy,” said Nalapat.

“Today Congress is raising this issue and has announced to go for an agitation programme similar to Quit India Movement because Narendra Modi is the prime minister. Congress is not looking for a change in the root cause, but only in the present leadership. Why Congress was silent during the UPA regime? If they come to power again, the same atmosphere of fear that Congress has been referring to will be there,” he said.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Oct 01, 2018 22:00:13 IST

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