National

Is BJP now de-Gandhifying the Congress?

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 29, 2017

Turning the wheel Prime Minister Narendra Modi spins the charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Thursday   -  PTI

Modi’s ‘experiments’ at Sabarmati do seem to suggest that

“This is a holy land which challenged hundreds of years of slavery in India. The venerable Bapu strived hard here, from where the saplings of Swarajya were sown, the Dandi March began, the nation’s consciousness aroused and unity emerged… I bow to thee.”

Roughly translated from Gujarati, this was part of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in the visitors’ book at Sabarmati Ashram on Thursday — his 14th tour of his home State since May 2014.

The Congress has been accusing him and the Sangh Parivar of “appropriating” Congress icons such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Today’s comments seemed to be an important effort mounted by Modi to ‘take over’ the topmost icon of the grand old party — Mahatma Gandhi.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani drove the point further home. “Our PM is fulfilling the dreams of Gandhiji,” he said. “The Mahatma’s favourite programmes, such as cleanliness (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan), self-reliance (Skill India), social harmony (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas) and saving the girl child (Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao) have all been implemented by the Modi government.”

Right buttons

And, Modi, who is known to love symbolism, hit all the right buttons: he went to every nook and corner of the Ashram, garlanded and unveiled Gandhi’s portraits and examined the exhibits, such as the Mahatma’s memorabilia and correspondence. , etc.

He planted saplings, had himself photographed alongside Gandhi’s old turbaned photograph, sat like the Mahatma and tried to work the charkha. Meanwhile, Gandhi’s beloved bhajan ‘ Vaishnava janato’ wafted in the air and Ashram inmates drifted past, providing the ‘right’ ambience.

Was it Modi’s attempt to ‘de-Gandhify’ the Congress, or his own evolution from being a politician to a statesman, through this transformation and image makeover?

During his 40-minute visit, Modi also sought details from the accompanying Ashram trustees — including Kartik Sarabhai, who is also Chairman of the Nehru Foundation for Development.

Assembly polls

But the daunting task ahead for the PM is the Gujarat Assembly elections, due by December, particularly with the BJP’s target of winning 150 out of 182 seats. On Thursday, the two rival Patidar groups of Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel announced unification in Surat, posing a fresh challenge to the ruling BJP.

Modi will not be leaving anything to chance in his fortress of Gujarat. On Thursday evening, he became the second Indian PM, after Morarji Desai, to visit Rajkot, the hub of Saurashtra politics and economy. It was from Rajkot that Modi contested his first Assembly election in 2002.

Modi — a great “event manager”, as his once-mentor LK Advani publicly said of him in 2014 — is set to lead a a 10-km-long, magnificent road-show, full of razzmatazz.

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Published on June 29, 2017
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