Mahatma Gandhi and former prime ministers of India Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi was praised by many top African leaders as they recalled the historic ties Africa shared with India. One can understand how humiliating this can be for BJP’s Prime Minister who keeps on boasting about Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ government was sworn in, it has been doing something which every one of us do when we take over a place from someone else – changing signage. The BJP government’s attempt towards removing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty names from a plethora of government schemes is apparently visible. After coming to power in May, the BJP had said it would review the use of Nehru-Gandhi family names in 650 schemes, projects and institutions.
They recalled the historical ties that bind us over the last century, emphasising particularly the role of two of your visionary prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Calling Nehru an active participant at the famous Bandung Conference in Indonesia in 1955 and subsequently a founding member of the Non Aligned Movement in 1961, he said the principles enshrined in the Non-Aligned Movement were reflected in our South-South solidarity interactions in today’s challenging times. “Indira Gandhi, in her first 11 years in office from 1966 to 1977, changed India’s African policy through the introduction of the Africa-India Development Cooperation and India’s support for liberation struggles in Africa, including South Africa.” In his address, Mugabe said Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru led the way through non-violence and showed the path to rid India and Africa of colonialism. The 91-year-old Mugabe also termed the Indian National Congress as a “great party” as he recalled Africa’s ties to Gandhi and the Congress.
Recently, it replaced, the Planning Commission with a new institution named NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India). The institution was set up by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1950. In such situations where they are trying to eliminate these names, a foreign delegation that came to India was non-stop recollecting those names. I am sure; Modi must be somewhere even ashamed of his deeds. We cannot neglect their contribution towards this country’s independence and thereafter.
South African President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were among those who mentioned, during their speeches at India-Africa Forum Summit, the contribution of the Gandhi and Nehru families in strengthening ties between the continent and India. What is it about the Gandhi-Nehru parivar that bothers the Sangh parivar? Why do Sanghis – from the grandees of the BJP and its mentor the RSS, to the neo-supporters who have emerged from the woodwork after years of keeping quiet, to the troll Sena that robotically hits out at anyone who is seen as the enemy – break out into a rash at the very mention of Nehru and his progeny? Why don’t the ministers get on with the job of governance instead of constantly plotting different ways to undermine or even wipe out any mention of Nehru in the public domain?
Last week, the government mentioned that the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library would not remain confined to the works of India’s first Prime Minister but also include the study of great and glorious achievements of others, and especially the current regime. Given that the NMML – under the now ousted Mahesh Rangarajan – was already devoting the majority of its time and resources to personalities and themes that go well beyond Nehru, BJP leaders either don’t know what they are talking about or are using the logic of a broader agenda to undermine the institution in some way.
While this disagreement was playing out, the Philately Advisory Committee suggested that the ‘definitive’ stamps bearing the images of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi should be discontinued. Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has accepted this suggestion with eagerness and declared, with disarming honesty, that there was no reason why one family should monopolise the list. The two definitive stamps are part of the series “Builders of Modern India”, which has included famous men and women, including Nehru, E V Ramasami Naicker, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Homi Bhabha, J R D Tata, Satyajit Ray, Mother Teresa and C V Raman. To this, Prasad wants to add Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shivaji, Maulana Azad, Vivekananda and Maharana Pratap, among others.
There is, of course, a political agenda – because it is the BJP’s mission to make India Congress-mukt and ensure that there is no other national political party on the scene. But the Sangh’s exertions in that direction seem overwrought, considering that the Congress itself is doing a fine job of making itself politically irrelevant. No, the BJP doesn’t want to just fight the Congress at the hustings; it wants to obliterate the Nehru-Gandhi family’s place not just in contemporary India but also in history. Anyway, BJP’s politics may play dirty but world will always remember these three great leaders of India.