Congress and BJP, tweedledum and tweedledee
Next Republic Day, four months before the 2014 general elections, when Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, lays the base of Sardar Patel’s statue facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river, will the Congress party be present at the function? What is wrong with a great Congress leader, the country’s first home minister, unifier of the Indian state, being appropriated by the RSS-BJP? Maybe there is something common in the DNA of the Congress and the BJP. We are all Indians, after all.
The statue, to be completed in five years, will be the tallest in the world, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. Heaven knows who will be prime minister then. If it is Narendra Modi, the ceremonies will be an extravaganza on a global scale. Will the Congress refuse to attend?
If, by a quirk of fortune, Rahul Gandhi finds himself in Race Course Road, will he complete the project begun by Narendra Modi? Or will he, in a spell of Nehruvian pique, abandon the Patel statue. Who knows, in his creative unpredictability, he may embark on an even taller Nehru statue.
He will not be allowed to by the party. The national mood, Rahul will be told, is more Patel than Nehru, which paraphrased means more saffron than secular. If it is a complicated transformation to communicate, let me try explaining.
Imagine the Congress and the BJP on a stage as two puppets, holding hands and jigging, the accompanying song would be:
In form and feature, face and limb / I grew so like my brother. / That folks went taking me for him / And each for one another.
Patel may well be the perfect symbol of this synthesis. And Nehru? A discard? On which perch do we place, poor Maulana Azad who, with touching naivette, hankered for a united India which ironically RSS ideologue HV Seshadri also wanted? When Nehru switched and supported the Partition plan, imagine the pain and bewilderment with which Maulana Azad must have looked at him. Et tu, Jawaharlal? Nehru was mesmerised by the Maulana’s intellect. In a letter to Indira Gandhi he describes him ‘too erudite’.
The Maulana dedicated ‘India Wins Freedom’ to ‘Jawaharlal Nehru, friend and comrade’. As Congress president from 1939 to 46 he successfully negotiated with the British Cabinet Mission and handed over to the party a plan for a united India. Who wrecked it? And we have arrived in this twilight between hard and soft saffron primarily under Congress rule.
This Patel debate is something that neither the Congress nor the BJP can be sanguine about. How does one square Modi’s admiration for Patel with the Tragic Story of Partition, by the RSS ideologue, H V Seshadri. He has taken both, Nehru and Patel, to task for having partitioned the country. Seshadri wrote: ‘When the new Viceroy Lord Mountbatten announced on 3 June, 1947, the plan for transfer of power, it came as a stunning blow to the people. For that plan, approved by Nehru and Patel, had envisaged cutting up Bharat and creating Pakistan! The great and trusted leaders of Congress had turned their backs on the sacred oaths they had taken, and the pledges they had administered to the people.’
If you are inclined to take the Seshadri version with a pinch of salt, let us read the version of someone who was present at the Congress conclaves in those fateful days: Ram Manohar Lohia. In his ‘Guilty Men of India’s Partition’, he describes Nehru ‘throwing a fit’, when Lohia urged that Congress leaders should reject the Two-Nation theory.
Did you know that Congress leaders had accepted the ‘Two-Nation’ theory, that Hindus and Muslims constitute two nations? Why has the Congress not spelt it out ever? Everything would have fallen in place. Indian Muslims would not have been marginalised by deception; they would have been confronted for a bargain. And it may well have been a grand