History, battleground for politics

Subramanian Swamy’s call for burning books written by Nehruvian historians is part of a larger conspiracy to underplay the contributions made by Nehru

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:27 pm IST

Published - October 10, 2014 12:25 am IST

ICONS: The BJP is trying to appropriate the legacy of Congress leaders such as Nehru, Gandhi and Patel. Above is a file photo of them at the AICC meeting in Delhi.

ICONS: The BJP is trying to appropriate the legacy of Congress leaders such as Nehru, Gandhi and Patel. Above is a file photo of them at the AICC meeting in Delhi.

The recent statement made by >Subramanian Swamy calling for the burning of books written by Nehruvian historians is part of a larger conspiracy by the Sangh Parivar to underplay the contribution of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in India’s history. It has been a while since the Sangh began attempts to rewrite India’s history and now they feel they have a good opportunity to accomplish this since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha election. The provocative statements made by Mr. Swamy — who has been owned, disowned and re-owned by the Sangh — are only a step towards reclaiming historical narratives to suit the right-wing group’s political agenda. Mr. Swamy’s statements, which are usually worth ignoring, cannot perhaps be overlooked for this reason.

Pandit Nehru’s contribution to the freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and his vision for the country’s development is something which India can never forget. He was Gandhi’s chosen one in order to lead the nation after independence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently made a statement asking people to go on a cleanliness drive from November 14, the birth anniversary of Pandit Nehru to Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary, November 19. This is probably the first time Mr. Modi has acknowledged the existence of the two great former Prime Ministers.

The problem with the RSS-BJP combine and their followers is that they don’t have any names worth mentioning among their leaders who might have contributed to the freedom struggle. That is probably the reason why they have been trying to appropriate the legacy of Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel among others. During the 1980s, the BJP under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiated the process of appropriating the doctrine of Gandhian socialism. The idea was to try and establish some relationship between their party and the freedom movement. This attempt, however, did not offer them any political advantage. As a result they reverted to hardcore religious fundamentalism and pursued the provocatively divisive issue of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya after the demolition of the Babri Masjid as their core political agenda. Later they tried to appropriate Patel as their leader and the Sangh Parivar propagated stories about the differences between Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel.

In the run-up to the general election Mr. Modi constantly made references to building the iron statue of Sardar Patel. He even appealed to contribute iron in the same way that they sought contributions of bricks for constructing the Ram Mandir. But now that he is the Prime Minister of the country, we have not heard much about the massive “Loh” statue of “Loh Purush” Sardar Patel.

Modi, the statesman After coming to power, Mr. Modi is trying hard to distance himself from the hardcore religious and fundamentalist ideology in which he had been trained and associated with since the beginning. In his attempt to project himself as a statesman, he has been making statements in favour of Indian Muslims and also appealed from the Red Fort for communal harmony in the country.

But can a leopard conceal its spots?

The game plan of the RSS-BJP combine to achieve a “Congress Mukt Bharat” is to capture the central space in national politics presently occupied by the Congress. At the same time marginal players like Mr. Swamy who are part of the RSS-BJP fraternity are being allowed to rake up their divisive agenda. Those who have been accused of indulging in communal riots are being honoured by the current dispensation. Provocative statements are allowed to be made by the cadre of right-wing groups.

Every small incident of tensions between local communities is being blown out of proportion and given a communal colour. The strategy of the RSS-BJP combine is to demolish the contributions made by the Nehru-Gandhi family during the freedom movement and building a new India post-independence. Their agenda is clearly to further polarise politics.

But several important questions need to be raised at this point. Would the saner elements in Indian society allow this to happen? Would we remain silent spectators while the RSS-BJP combine distorts Indian history? The thing to watch for is how Mr. Modi will tackle people like Mr. Swamy, Yogi Adityanath and other fringe elements within the RSS-BJP fraternity in order to emerge as a true national leader. Or would he surreptitiously allow these players to further polarise politics?

(Digvijaya Singh is a Rajya Sabha member and General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee.)

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