The exclusion of the picture of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru from a poster released by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) was an “act of political vindictiveness” on the part of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and an “insult to the memory of every freedom fighter”, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who is the party’s chief spokesperson, said on Sunday.
In his weekly column ‘Rokhthok’ in the Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna , Mr. Raut launched a broadside against the BJP and its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), remarking: “Those who had no participation in the freedom struggle and in creating history are now keeping out one of the heroes [Pandit Nehru] of the Independence struggle. This act, which reeks of political vindictiveness, shows the narrow mindset of the Central government.”
The ICHR, an autonomous body under the Union Ministry of Education, had caused a furore after it had excluded pictures of stalwart Congressmen Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from its poster marking the 75th anniversary of the country’s Independence.
Demanding to know the reason behind the BJP’s “acrimonious attitude” towards Nehru, Mr. Raut asked: “Is the history of the country's freedom struggle now changing as well? On the ICHR poster, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Madan Mohan Malviya and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar are prominent, but Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad are excluded. The history of India’s freedom struggle cannot be complete without Nehru and Azad…the Centre is making a fool of itself by excluding Pandit Nehru in particular.”
He further observed that the institutions that Nehru built were now being sold by the Centre to keep the Indian economy moving and claimed it was only due to his “long-term vision” that the country could avert an economic debacle.
“There may be differences about Pandit Nehru and his Congress party, but how can anyone deny his immense role in securing Independence? While Pt. Nehru's national, political, international role may not be acceptable to everyone, erasing his place in the country's freedom struggle with political malice is an insult to every soldier in the freedom struggle,” said Mr. Raut, adding those attempting to destroy Nehru’s immortal contribution in nation-building would be labelled as “villains.”
The Sena MP, whose party shares power with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress in Maharashtra, pointed that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin recently took a decision not to remove pictures of his rivals and former State Chief Ministers Jayalalithaa and Edappadi Palaniswami from school bags which were being distributed free to children in the southern State.
“If he [Mr. Stalin] can show political maturity, why do you have such hatred against Pt. Nehru? You owe an answer to the nation," Mr. Raut said.
He further said that while the Modi government's criticism of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was understandable, what could be achieved by attempting to erase Nehru’s name.
“There is no problem in the current Modi government having political quarrels with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. The Centre had also changed the name of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to underscore this animosity towards the Gandhi family. But the contributions of Pandit Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi in shaping a modern India are immortal. What will be achieved by destroying it,” asked Mr. Raut.