All eyes on Sevagram Ashram

Rahul Gandhi  

The quiet surroundings of the Sevagram Ashram and the adjoining Wardha town of Maharashtra, where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi spent his last 11 years, are bracing for a busy Tuesday as political rivals, the Congress and the BJP, are battling for the Mahatma’s legacy.

CWC meet

On Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, Congress president Rahul Gandhi will chair a ‘symbolic’ meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision making body, where the party would give a call for the ouster of the BJP and “the atmosphere of fear, hatred and violence to quit India.”

Mr. Gandhi will lead a peace march at Wardha, address a public rally and sit in a prayer meet inside the Sevagram Ashram. The Congress leaders will also plant a tree to commemorate Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary.

Wardha has been chosen for its symbolism as it was here in July 1942, the then Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution to launch the Quit India movement against the British.

BJP’s big plans

Not to be outdone, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra too has drawn out elaborate plans for Tuesday. After paying his respects at Sevagram, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will unveil an electrically powered ‘charkha’ (spinning wheel) at a community hall that the State government is building under the Sevagram Development Plan.

Under the plan, the State government has been spending money not only on the beautification of Wardha with art installation but also on improving connectivity between Wardha and Nagpur, the nearest city (about 80 km away) with an airport.

Local BJP workers, who didn’t want to be quoted, said the tallest ‘charkha’, specially made by the J.J. School of Art, just outside Sevagram, would remind “the people of the BJP’s effort to honour Bapu’s legacy.”

The chief of the Sevagram Ashram Trust, T.R.N. Prabhu, told The Hindu that it didn’t involve itself with the events of any political party. “I am of the opinion that no political activity should be done inside the Ashram or in the vicinity. When they [the Congress] asked us for CWC meet, we declined,” he said.

He, however, clarified that the Ashram permits prayer meetings by any group, and that is what has been allowed for the Congress.

Another Gandhian trust, Sarva Seva Sangh, however, has allowed the Congress to have its CWC meet.

Asked about the Maharashtra Minister unveiling the charkha on a plot owned by the Ashram or giving away prizes to children, Mr. Prabhu said, “The prize distribution is a government event and not a party programme and the charkha too has been built by the State government.”