Pranab to pay tributes to Indira; Modi has no plan

President Pranab Mukherjee.   | Photo Credit: PTI

President Pranab Mukherjee — as in the previous years and as his predecessors used to do — will start Friday morning by visiting Shakti Sthal, the memorial of Indira Gandhi here, to attend a function organised by the Congress on her 30th death anniversary.

At 8.15 am, Mr. Mukherjee will flag off a “Run for Unity” for the residents of the President’s Estate from the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to mark Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, which falls on the same day.

This is a departure from previous years, when both occasions were marked by quiet homage: leaders visited Shakti Sthal in the morning and then went to the Central Hall of Parliament to pay their tribute to Sardar Patel.

This year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no plans to go to Shakti Sthal.

However, the functions to mark Patel’s anniversary will be on a grand scale, starting with Mr. Modi flagging off the “Run for Unity” at the crossing of Rajpath and Rajendra Prasad Road – and participating in the marathon that will end at India Gate.

Even though Indira Gandhi has her many admirers in the BJP, starting with Mr. Vajpayee, who had referred to her as Durga for her role in Bangladesh’s birth, over the last few years, the BJP has sought to appropriate the Iron Man and pit him against Nehru, and say that the former has not been given his due.

On Thursday, refuting this charge, BJP leader Chandan Mitra 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 Sardar 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. Party sources said that 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 president had written to the Prime Minister that the government should organise the death anniversary for only Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat and for all other national leaders, the task be left to the trusts and the Congress party.”

“First they try to do a Nehru versus Gandhi and then a Patel versus Indira. Then they will eventually bring in dynasty. All four leaders are from the Congress, we won’t give the BJP a chance to create this controversy,” a senior leader said.

But while officially, the party is being cautious, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday lashed out at the government for ignoring the former PM. “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 | Dec 7, 2021 12:20:40 AM |

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