68 years after he left for his heavenly abode, apart from his picture on currency note,Mahatma Gandhi’s name is prominently invoked at two occasions. Once on 2nd of October every year like today and second when as the last line of defence, Congress reminds the nation that they are the only inheritor of Gandhi’s legacy. Also Congress and Rahul Gandhi often use Mahatma’s name for loathing RSS/BJP, linking Godse’s roots with the ideology of RSS.
Congress takes their claim on Mahatma’s legacy basis their belief that this party was once represented, nurtured and mentored by Mahatma Gandhi. Now, this is out rightly rebuttable in the first place. Congress was never the same outfit after independence. It further veered away from its original quintessence after Nehru passed away in 1964 and finally it was dead in 1969 (and it was official), when Indira blatantly derecognized the original party and formed present day Congress, which has been a family venture ever since.
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So present day Congress is no way the party which Mahatma represented after coming from South Africa in 1915 and till his assassination in 1948, albeit party’s name is same Notwithstanding this, Congress can still claim this legacy if there are some parallels in the ideologies of Mahatma and Congress post-independence. Regretfully, leave behind any parallels, Congress’s conduct post 1947 has been bang opposite to what Mahatma envisaged for Congress and its cadre post-independence. They have been defying father of nation in every possible way.
When in 1947, Louis Mountbatten was grappling along with Congress and Jinnah with the transfer of power & creation of two nations, Bapu was deeply apprehensive about transition of Congress from a party who fought against British colonialism to the one who was slated to rule the nation. He clearly told and made no bones about it that Congress needs to ensure that its ministers and government office bearers should maintain a strict austere conduct, need to live in a small house like a common Indian, should lead a life sans pomp. Congress however did exactly opposite. Apart from living in opulence, Congress did not even shy away from converting huge national properties in to memorials in its bid to eulogizing their leaders (read Nehru family) and creating a cult around them (Teen Murti Bhavan, 1 Safdarjung Road). Huge land parcels were covered to convert cremation grounds in to memorials as well. Mahatma Gandhi on other hand was living a life no better than that of a pauper. He spent most of his last few months in Harizan Basti in Delhi and in the riot-ridden Noakhali/Calcutta. He was having bare minimum food as his daily diet, which was just sufficient to keep his frail fifty kilogram structure moving across the day.
Gandhi’s stay at Harijan Basti was not like Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the house to KALAWATI in 2008. Bapu used to stay there, being one among them. So much so that he used to undertake job as deeming as the toilet cleaning. During his stay in Noakhali, Mahatma used to walk many a miles in a day, in sultry and hostile weather to meet as many people as possible in his attempt to heel riot hit areas. The claimant of Bapu’s legacy Rahul Gandhi is matching that with an orchestrated lunch at a farmer’s house and with two months of sabbatical to south-east Asia, ostensibly for introspection.
Mahatma Gandhi envisaged India as a strong people driven democracy. His close and favourite aide Nehru honoured the very essence of democracy while he was at helm.
Once when Nehru was asked about the continued tirade of C. Rajgopalachari against him, Nehru replied “Raja ji is an honourable man. There has to be merit in anything he says”. Nehru never intervened in routine democratic processes of party and government.
However later Indira and then Rajiv Gandhi subverted democratic values in the most barefaced manner. In eighties, within Congress things had become so family oriented that Rajiv was picking Chief Ministers of Congress led states on his whim. Misuse of article 356 by congress to thwart non-Congress satraps was prevalent during that time. Internal democracy within Congress never existed after Nehru and it has been one person show with a Nehru family member at the top (barring a brief period post Rajiv’s assassination in 1991).
Bapu was a true secular. He was treating Hindu-Muslim with absolute equality. In 1947, when Muslim leaders of Calcutta requested Gandhi to move to Calcutta to safeguard Muslims from the rampaged Hindus, Gandhi readily agreed but he then put a condition that Muslim leaders need to ensure safety of Hindus in Noakhali. Mahatma’s was deeply emphatic and passionate about his people regardless of their religion. Present day Congress has been involved in appeasement instead. Can we forget the way Rajiv took stand in Shahbano case, defying all the logics and righteousness? When accusation of minority appeasement surfaced, Rajiv started diluting his stand at Ramjanambhoomi issue to lure Hindus.
Congress cannot hoodwink the nation by becoming pseudo-Gandhian. Congress needs to realize that invoking Bapu’s name would not help unless current leadership demonstrate some Gandhian way in its conduct. The nation which once marched behind Mahatma Gandhi & Nehru has brought Congress at a level where it is struggling for its existence.
In the end, one true incident involving my grandfather, which he had told me several times with greatest of pride. In late 1930s, my grandfather, a true Gandhian, met Bapu alongwith his then business associate at the bank of a canal in a small village of present days western UP. When my grandpa’s friend moved forward to touch Mahatma’s feet, he got furious. Mahatma stopped him told “Don’t bow down like this. Same thing we Indians have been doing to Britishers for the past two centuries and I am fighting against it. If you really respect me, than please don’t touch my feet, follow my path instead”. My grandpa, who was next in the queue to touch his feet, quietly withdrew.
Congress leadership can borrow a leaf from here. May be they can make the sinking ship float again.
(The author is NewsMobile iJourno)