Gandhi belongs to whom? BJP, Congress fight it out

Representative image. PTI Photo

As the tug of war between the Congress and the BJP is set to intensify on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the ruling party has got in its kitty an impressive set of programmes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch Gandhi Sankalp Yatra from October 2 to 31, and nationwide campaign against single-use plastic.

Besides these, the BJP is also holding a grand function on the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad to release a commemorative coin and postage stamps, unveiling Gandhi’s busts in 54 countries and a mammoth cycle march to propagate against the use of single-use plastic.

An indication of the unfolding bitter legacy war was seen when Congress’ Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday said that he will accept that the BJP and the RSS value Mahatma Gandhi and that Modi is a Gandhian only when the RSS starts raising the slogan “Nathruam Godse Murdabad (Down with Nathuram Godse)”.

By invoking Godse, Baghel was touching the raw nerve of the saffron party, which has often found itself at the receiving end of the ‘Gandhi versus Godse’ debate that once again raised its head during the Lok Sabha polls this year when remarks of BJP’s candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur (now an MP) praising Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as “deshbhkat” (patriot) raised a political storm.

The BJP had then expelled its Madhya Pradesh media cell head Anil Saumitra, who described Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘Father of Pakistan’ and it squarely distanced itself from the statement of Karnataka leaders Anantkumar Hegde and Nalin Kumar Kateel.

Hegde had favoured a debate on Godse and Kateel compared Godse to the former prime minister the late Rajiv Gandhi. 

Ever since coming to power in 2014, Modi has made sustained efforts to counter the narrative of the BJP-RSS being pro-Godse, a charge the Congress has been maintaining for decades tracing the RSS’ link to Godse.

Immediately after coming to power, Modi launched his pet project “Swachch Bharat Abhiyan” on Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

Last year, when the Lok Sabha polls were scheduled just seven months after Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had given a call to launch a second freedom struggle to oust the Modi government with his party dismissing the BJP’s attempts to align with Gandhi’s legacy as a “complete eyewash” and an attempt to “hijack” the Mahatma’s legacy.

When he was given the Global Goalkeeper Award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Swachch Bharat Abhiyan last week, Modi said, “getting the award in the year of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary is personally significant for me.”

While the BJP tried to get closer to Mahatma’s legacy through such events, the Congress has repeatedly flagged Mahatma’s pitch for communal harmony to browbeat the saffron party on this count.

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