The BJP is looking for new heroes for the saffron parivar. Everybody is invited, political past no bar.
It started with Sardar Patel, gathered momentum with Subhash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar and Madan Mohan Malviya. And now the BJP has spread its net wide— from proverbial Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Jammu, singing praises of Girdhari Lal Dogra, at the birth centenary celebrations of the Congress stalwart who was elected twice for the Lok Sabha and served as the state's finance minister.
While a pantheon of BJP leaders was present at the occasion--ironically to celebrate the centenary of a Congress leader--only Dr Karan Singh was a notable invitee from the party Dogra represented all his life.
Dogra's legacy is now in the hands of his son-in-law Arun Jaitley, so the presence of the top BJP brass and the absence of the Congress top leadership wasn't mere coincidence.
Just a day ago, home minister Rajnath Singh was busy appropriating the legacy of another Congress leader--former Tamil Nadu chief minister K Kamraj.
Speaking at 'Kingmaker' Kamraj's 113th birth anniversary, Singh hailed the former Indian National Congress president as a great visionary and drew parallels between the TN leader and PM Modi. "Both came from humble backgrounds, served their states and rose to national prominence," Singh said, in a bold attempt to sever Kamraj's umbilical chord with the Congress and tie him inextricably with political sibling Modi.
Claiming a share of the Congress legacy and history isn't a new fetish for the BJP. Since it made an audacious bid--and partly succeeded-- to saffronise Patel, the BJP has been attempting to link itself to several leaders, who were part of the Congress.
As the Indian Express points out in today's (July 17) edition, this is part of a political project to lay claim to legacy of prominent leaders who people identify as their own. 'In his Vijayadashami address last year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat called for “a new and suitable development model that incorporates the vision… and experience of great Bharatiya leaders” — and included in that list, besides traditional Sangh icons such as Upadhyay, Savarkar and Golwalkar, also Tagore, Gandhi, Bose, Ambedkar, Vinoba Bhave, JP and (Ram Manohar) Lohia.'
Saffronisation of education and institution is passe. Leaders are the new target of the Parivar.
The BJP's strategy in targeting leaders from the political spectrum is clear. It wants to identify itself with the politics and philosophy of any mass leader who was opposed to the Nehru-Gandhis. Sometimes even when such differences do not exist, the Saffron Parivar runs a concerted effort to distance the leader on its bargain list from the Nehru-Gandhis and their politics.
Sometimes, in its bid to spruce up its philosophical roots, the BJP overlooks some glaring contradictions. Patel, for instance, was a bitter critic of the Sangh's role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
"The speeches of the Sangh leaders are poisonous. It is as a result of this venom that Mahatma Gandhi has been assassinated. The followers of the Sangh have celebrated Gandhiji’s assassination by distributing sweets," the former home minister wrote in a letter to the RSS Sarsanghchalak in 1948.
Even Ambedkar was not a fan of right-wing politics and Hindutva. "The movement to leave the Hindu religion was taken in hand by us in 1955, when a resolution was made in Yeola. 'Even though I was born in the Hindu religion, I will not die in the Hindu religion' — this oath I made earlier; yesterday I proved it true. I am happy; I am ecstatic! I have left hell — this is how I feel.” (Ambedkar’s speech a day after converting to Buddhism).
And, of course, there is the irony of the BJP wanting both Mahatma Gandhi and his killers under its tent. As pointed out by Firstpost, the BJP and its extended Parivar have appropriated every character associated with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, from victim to perpetrator, and Sardar Patel who banned the RSS in its wake.
Six decades after Gandhi's assassination, we find ourselves in a very strange place: the PM is hailing many of Gandhi’s ideals; the RSS is backing the BJP’s claim to Patel’s legacy and the PM’s plan to build Sardar’s gigantic statue; the Hindu Mahasabha is petitioning the government to install Godse’s statues across India while BJP parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj argues that he be called a patriot.
The Congress, of course, can only blame itself for the erosion of its history and the daylight loot of its legacy.
After the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and the decline of the Syndicate(the group opposed to Indira), it distanced itself from the pre-Independence legacy and turned into a part of the Nehru-Gandhis. The famous slogan by Indira Gandhi lackey DK Baruah 'Indira is India, India is Indira' is an apt metaphor for the ideological shift within the Congress since Shastri's death.
Since Indira split the party and renamed it Congress (I), it turned into a family fief and its past a family album of the Nehru-Gandhis. Even PM's like Shastri and PV Narasimha Rao were treated like mere footnotes in the history of the party, which was made to look more and more like a tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru and his dynasty.
Now it can only watch helplessly as the BJP poaches the leaders the Congress left out in the cold.
Updated Date: Jul 18, 2015 08:48:27 IST