Patel’s anniversary events on a grand scale this time

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi having no plans to go to Shakti Sthal, Indira Gandhi’s memorial, to pay tributes on her 30th death anniversary, the functions to mark Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary will be on a grand scale, starting Mr. Modi flagging off a “Run for Unity” near Vijay Chowk.

Though Indira Gandhi has her many admirers in the BJP, starting with the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had referred to her as Durga for her role in Bangladesh’s birth, over the past few years the BJP has sought to appropriate the Iron Man and pit him against Jawaharlal Nehru, saying the former has not been given his due. Refuting this charge, BJP leader Chandan Mitra on Thursday told The Hindu: “There is no question of anyone being pitted against anyone else. But yes, Patel is finally being given the recognition he deserves. It is not a question of undermining the Nehru-Gandhis, but of giving Patel his due as one of the architects of freedom.”

If Mr. Mitra felt there was no politics in the projection of Patel by his party, historian Mridula Mukherjee sees it differently: “It is wrong to project Patel as a rival of Nehru — that would be unfair to his memory, just as it would be to pit Vajpayee against Advani. Patel was a very important leader, and I don’t agree that his contributions have been ignored all these years. But the BJP has an agenda to build up Patel and pit him against the Nehru-Gandhi family, and it came in useful because he was from Gujarat. There is a clear political sub-text in these celebrations.”

Officially, the Congress is trying to underplay the face-off. Sources said the party would like to steer clear of what it feels is the Narendra Modi government’s attempt to create a controversy, pitting two Congress icons against each other.

The Congress’s communication chief Ajay Maken maintained that the NDA government was following party president Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion that such observances be limited to Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. “In August 2012, the Congress chief wrote to Prime Minister that the government should organise the death anniversary of only Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and for all other national leaders, the task be left to the trusts and the Congress party.”

But while officially, the party is being cautious, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday lashed out at the government for ignoring the former Prime Minister. “Disgraceful that Govt is ignoring the martyrdom of our only Prime Minister who was killed in office in the line of duty. Oct 31 forgotten?” he tweeted.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 3:06:22 PM |

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