Amid a slugfest between the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the Congress over Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a noted biographer of Patel has said the country’s first home minister would not have recognised Mr. Modi as his ideological heir and been very “pained” with his behaviour towards Muslims.
Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who has written a biography of the country’s first home minister, said Patel certainly would not have felt at the time of the 2002 riots in Gujarat that Mr. Modi fulfilled his rajdharma , a phrase used by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to chide Mr. Modi.
“I think it is quite obvious that he (Patel) would have been very disappointed, very pained and saddened, not only as an Indian statesman but also as someone coming from Gujarat, that this should not have happened in Gujarat and the government of the time was not able to prevent it,” he said.
Talking to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate , Mr. Gandhi said that claims by BJP supporters or Mr. Modi himself to project him as Patel’s heir misunderstands and misrepresents Patel.
“If Modi can grow into that kind of image, that would be wonderful, but by two reasons he has fallen short. After all Patel grew as a disciple under the umbrella of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. Modi had his career under the umbrella of RSS and that makes a difference.
Also, Patel as an individual was always a team builder; other people were prominent in his daily life. Whether Modi is like that... I would like him to be like that,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi, however, accepted the criticism that Congress has forgotten Patel or relegated him to the background in the 63 years since his death.
Mr. Modi and Congress leaders have engaged in a war of words over Patel with the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate claiming that the country’s destiny would have been different had he been the first Prime Minister instead of Nehru.
Congress has hit back at him, saying he was trying to hijack Patel’s legacy as BJP lacked any icon. — PTI