National

Modi govt. adds another national day

President Pranab Mukherjee with former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at Shakti Sthal on the occassion of Indira Gandhi''s Death Anniversary in New Delhi on Friday. - Photo: S. Subramanium  

This year on Teachers’ Day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with schoolchildren was televised, it suggested that the new dispensation would institute its own national days. For, Children’s Day has, for many years, been celebrated on November 14, to mark the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Similarly, on Friday, as Mr. Modi led the nationwide extravaganza to mark Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary, he announced that the day would henceforth be observed as ‘Ekta Diwas’ (National Unity Day), which appeared to rob November 19, Indira Gandhi’s birthday, which was celebrated as National Integration Day, of its significance.

On Friday morning, Mr. Modi’s comment, “A country that forgets its history cannot create history,” did not go unnoticed. Nor that of Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu who stressed that had Sardar Patel been India’s first Prime Minister, the country would not have been beset by the problems it has — a frontal attack on Nehru.

For an already mangled Congress, depriving it of its historical legacy — of its pride in its galaxy of leaders who led the freedom movement — is to hollow it out further. Privately, Congressmen say this is an effort not just to de-legitimise its claim of being the true inheritors of the message and ideals of the freedom fighters but also directly attack the Nehru-Gandhi family that provides the glue that has kept the party united.

But the BJP itself is publicly maintaining that it has no motive other than giving Sardar Patel his due. “None of these actions should be seen as being in competition with what the Congress has done, but we do feel there was a political motive in naming everything after the Gandhi-Nehru family. The achievements of the freedom struggle can’t be limited to one individual or one family,” Seshadri Chari, former editor of the RSS organ The Organiser, said. He stressed, “Sardar Patel’s image and actions truly represented the unification of this country and the Congress government should have given him the respect due to the unifier of independent India. The only riyasat (empire) that was left to Nehru – Jammu and Kashmir – is still hanging fire.” But Mr. Chari also added, “Nehru and Indira Gandhi have their own place in history, neither will be forgotten or belittled. We respect Indira Gandhi for unification and for her role in 1971, but we don’t appreciate the Indira Gandhi of 1975. And the chairman of the national committee celebrating Nehru’s 125th anniversary is the Prime Minister himself.”

The Congress, realising fully the pitfalls of entering such a debate, has tried to publicly sound neutral, even as it has sought to demonstrate that both Indira Gandhi and Patel were Congress leaders. On the official Congress website, photographs of the two leaders are accompanied by a caption, “Iron Leaders of India, Iron Leaders of Congress.”

Asked to respond to the unfolding celebrations, Congress Communication chief Ajay Maken merely said, “No individual, no government can undermine the contribution of Sardar Patel. We are as proud of him as a national Congress leader as of any other leader.”

But the Congress is worried that the Modi government is trying to undermine the significance of members of the Nehru-Gandhi family in the national consciousness in the hope that it will further weaken the Congress.


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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 1:58:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modi-govt-adds-another-national-day/article6553270.ece

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