67 years of Indian independence has ensured, if for nothing else, a proliferation of nationalistic allegiance towards Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. Agreed that both the men were tall leaders and if it wouldn’t have been for the unifying acumen of Gandhi, the Indian independence movement which looked bleak and out of answers after the 1907 Surat split of the Congress, the Indian national movement would have perhaps lost its steam for once and for all.
But how about acknowledging the contribution of equally important leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and also volatile but equally relevant Chandrashekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil and Bhagat Singh? While the move to hold the Run for Unity on the occasion of Sardar Patel’s 139th birth anniversary is a welcome move by the BJP led NDA government of Narendra Modi its declaration of Patel’s birth anniversary every year as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas should keep it on tenterhooks. The trend to politicise the birth or death anniversaries of political luminaries is nothing new and everyone has complete knowledge how Congress, which was at the helm for 10 years from 2004 to 2014 had remembered 31st of October every year not as birth anniversary of Patel but as the martyrdom day of Indira Gandhi, unarguably one of India’s boldest yet capricious prime ministers.
Another example that perhaps needs to be quoted is that how the 2nd of October every year has forever been about Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and not about Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birth anniversary. Shastri, who was one of the most frugal and socialist prime minister’s that India ever had would anyway have also liked the status quo to have remained intact the way it has been for decades now. In India, politicians, film-stars and cricketers have been accorded the status of demigods for ages now. Every single party- regional or national has had someone. If Samajwadi Party left no stone unturned to project Ram Manohar Lohia as the only socialist India ever saw, Bahujan Samaj Party’s undying efforts to bring Babasaheb Ambedkar to the fore cannot be negated.
In fact BJP’s predecessor the Jana Sangh which was founded by Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee harped on its status of being a political outcast for years and clearly the blame was harped on how Congress and especially Pandit Nehru belittled the eminent leader. But after the power shift of May, 2014 and especially after Mr Modi has assumed office there seems to be a concerted attempt at highlighting only Mahatma Gandhi and now Sardar Patel.
Agreed, we have absolutely miniscule opposition in Parliament now but should the public be ready for such kind of over the moon gestures where a certain region, Gujarat in this case, starts getting highlighted because the current prime minister hails from the state? If the NDA government which was elected on its promise of good governance also resorts to such politically laced name calling of important days like these, how different is it an alternative to the UPA government or other state governments? This practice must be nipped in the bud lest it assumes unnecessary ramifications which would hamper the country’s growth.