In a move to scuttle Rahul’s chances, Modi appropriates Congress stalwarts other than Nehru
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort clearly indicated his ideological strategy to defeat the opposition combine “INDIA” helmed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the 2024 parliamentary elections.
Faced with the rising popular tide in favour of Rahul Gandhi, Modi is on a campaign to appropriate historical stalwarts of the Congress party other than Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul’s great grandfather and the icon of the post-independence Congress Party.
Modi’s long oration made no mention of the contribution of Nehru and his dynasty to the building of post-independence India. But he made copious references to other historical personages such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, B.R.Ambedkar, Jaiprakash Narayan, Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda.
The strategy is to make a claim to the legacy of the Indian freedom movement without acknowledging the contribution of Nehru and his family. It was ironical that no mention was made of Nehru’s contribution to science and technology at a time when India’s moon probe Chandrayaan 3 was on its journey to the moon as the culmination of the space program Nehru initiated.
The erasure of Nehru was stark last Wednesday when the hallowed Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi was renamed “Prime Ministers’ Memorial Museum and Library” on the specious plea that it should be a museum of all Prime Ministers and not just Nehru.
The institution was named after Nehru not because he was PM but because he had a passion for scholarship and historical research which the library was meant to promote.
Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh minced no words when he condemned the renaming saying: “Mr. Modi possesses a huge bundle of fears, complexes and insecurities, especially when it comes to our first and longest serving Prime Minister. He has had a single point agenda of denying, distorting, defaming and destroying Nehru and the Nehruvian legacy.”
Gandhiji as Forebear
In his speech, Modi made many references to “Bapu” (Gandhiji), attributing to him several of his development schemes. Deviating from the RSS line, he abjured glorification of the violent revolutionaries in the freedom movement and attributed India’s independence to Gandhiji’s non-violent struggle.
“The country gained independence under the leadership of Bapu,” Modi said and added: “Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, freedom fighters were going door-to-door, to awaken the country to realize their dreams of independence.”
To live down his communal image, Modi even portrayed himself as an advocate of communal harmony in line with Gandhiji’s credo.
He said: “Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit? We have had enough of fights, many have been killed. Friends, look behind and you will find that nobody has benefited from it. Except casting a slur on Mother India, we have done nothing. Therefore, I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts; let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for 10 years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions. And you will see that how much strength we get from peace, unity, goodwill and brotherhood. Let`s experiment it for once.”
Recalling Gandhiji’s swadeshi campaign, Modi said that his “Make in India” project is based on Modi’s program.
“My dear countrymen, whether it is a five trillion economy dream or the dream of a self-reliant India, we are following the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals are relevant even today. So we have to take forward our ‘Make in India’ mission,” he said.
Claiming to carry forward Gandhiji’s village-based economic model, Modi said: “Whatever is produced in the village should be given priority. If it is not available in the village we have to go beyond that- to Tehsil, to the district and then to the state level. Our rural economy will get a boost; our small entrepreneurs will get a boost; our traditional things will get a fillip.”
On the use of chemical fertilizers too, he recalled Gandhiji’s disapproval of unnatural methods.
“Revered Bapu showed us the way. Should we not cut down the use of chemical fertilizer in our fields by 10% or 20% or 25% and if possible should we not launch a Muktikar Abhiyan (campaign)?” Modi asked.
Knitting India Together
Modi indirectly criticized Nehru and praised Sardar Patel in the matter of knitting the country together in the early years of independence. Modi said that Patel “took these bold and important decisions even during those difficult times, keeping the goals of national integration and political unification in mind. The exercise towards national integration was a successful one.”
” Today, as I address the nation from the Red Fort, I can proudly say that every Indian today can speak of One Nation, One Constitution and we are trying to fulfil Sardar Sahib’s dream of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat. Through GST we have fulfilled the dream of One Nation One Tax. Similarly, we successfully achieved the dream of One Nation, One Grid in the energy sector recently.”
He justified his abrogation of Art 370 and 35 vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir as being in line with Patel’s actions to unify India and indirectly criticised the Congress governments for letting it be for so long.
“Some in the corridors of power, in a bid to take mileage from vote-bank politics, have been talking in favour of Article 370. The country demands an answer from those speaking in favour of Article 370, that if Article 370 and 35-A were so important. If Article 370 was so crucial, then why did ruling parties not make it permanent in the last 70 years despite having a majority? Why was it kept temporary? If there was so much of conviction, you should have moved ahead and made it permanent. This means that you knew all along that the decision taken was not right. But you did not have the courage and the will to amend it,” Modi said.
Swears by Ambedkar’s Constitution
Even as his party, the BJP, is contemplating changing the constitution to centralize the country and enshrine Hindu supremacy, Modi swore by the federal constitution authored by Dr.Ambedkar.
“75 years of Independence, 150 years of Gandhi and 70 years of India’s Constitution have been completed for realising the dream of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.”
“India’s federal structure is more important today than in the last 60 years. To strengthen our federal structure, to make our federal structure vibrant, to take our federal structure as a heritage of development, a team of Chief Ministers and Prime Minister should be there, a joint team of the Centre and the states should move forward, then to do this job, we will have to think about giving the Planning Commission a look. So, I am saying from the rampart of the Red Fort that it is a very old system and it will have to be rejuvenated, it will have to be changed a lot. Sometimes it costs more to repair the old house, but, it gives us no satisfaction. Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the Planning Commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of state governments seeking development, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.”
Aurobindo and Vivekananda
Modi said that he believes in India’s spiritual legacy and attributed it to Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda.
Modi quoted Aurobindo as saying: “I have a faith that the divine power and spiritual heritage of India will play an important role towards the welfare of the world.”
Tracing the origin of his concept of India’s becoming the Vishwa Guru (World Teacher) Modi attributed it to Aurobindo and Vivekananda.
” I am reminded of the words of Swami Vivekananda who said: ‘I can see before my eyes Mother India awakening once again. My Mother India would be seated as the World Guru. Every Indian would render service towards welfare of humanity. This legacy of India would be useful for the welfare of the world.’.
“Friends, the words of Vivekananda ji can never be untrue. The words of Vivekananda, his dream of seeing India ensconced as World Guru, his vision, it is incumbent upon us to realize that dream,” Modi said.
Clearly, Modi is hoping that his nativist ideology will deflect the voters’ attention from the bread and butter issues and those of democracy that would be raised by INDIA led by Rahul Gandhi.