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Sunday, November 16, 2014
Is Nehru merely a mascot of Dynasty?
Is Nehru merely a mascot of Dynasty?
By Kanchan Gupta |Posted 15-Nov-2014
is it about hundred, hundred-and-twenty-five or hundred-and-fifty years
that gets us so excited about individuals and events? There was much
outpouring of highfalutin praise for Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore during
the year marking the poet’s 150th birth anniversary. He had not figured
in public (or private) discourse before that; nor has he found mention
Similarly, there was much hoopla over the Mutiny of 1857 (the politely
politically correct call it the “Uprising”; the robustly patriotic call
it “India’s First War of Independence”) to mark its 150th anniversary,
although it still remains a mystery to me whether the candlelight vigil
at India Gate was a requiem for Mangal Pandey or Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Arjun Singh as Minister for Human Resource Development decided to
reclaim ownership of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s ode to the
motherland by announcing a ‘massive programme’ (anything that is massive
is also well funded) to observe the centenary of ‘Vande Mataram’ being
sung for the first time at a Congress session.
Committees and sub-committees were set up (every two-penny academic and
ha’penny hack became either a Bankim or a Congress expert, if not both),
funds allotted (for seminars and travel) and newspaper advertisements
(with a stern Sonia Gandhi taking precedence over the author of
Anandamath) issued. Some time later, it was discovered that Congress had
got the date all wrong and the ‘massive programme’ was quietly dropped.
Needless to say, we haven’t heard much about either Vande Mataram or the
Congress’s ownership of the National Song since then. The only occasion
it enters public discourse is when a Muslim politician or an Islamist
fanatic denounces Vande Mataram because, or so they claim, bowing your
head to madre watan is haram. The Congress, and its camp followers, the
‘useful idiots’, who wanted to celebrate a Vande Mataram centenary of
sorts, now rush to the defence of those who denigrate the National Song.
The Gandhi centenary in 1969 was another occasion for national hoopla,
observed no doubt by those who live neither by the percept nor the
practices of the Mahatma. Newspaper records of the time bear witness to
the hollowness of our claimed adherence to Gandhi-ism.
We will see a replay of that deceitful allegiance to Gandhi when we
celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the man who made poverty into a
noble virtue and militated against modernism – he believed the railways
were an evil though he made a fetish of travelling by train ever since
he was thrown out of one at Pietermaritzburg.
All this comes to mind while witnessing the big fight (those not given
to being polite would call it a cat fight) now raging in Delhi over who
owns Jawaharlal Nehru, as the Congress and the BJP slug it out on the
occasion of Panditji’s 125th birth anniversary. The Congress claims the
legacy of Nehru is entirely theirs, not to be shared with anybody else;
the BJP insists Nehru’s legacy belongs to the nation, not to a political
party or the Dynasty which is the majority shareholder in that party.
It is immaterial to either the incumbent Modi Sarkar or the Congress,
which has been reduced to a shameful and shaming minority of 44 seats in
the Lok Sabha, that for the vast majority of this country’s masses (as
well as the classes), Nehru is no more than India’s first Prime
Minister, to be remembered, if at all, for both good deeds and bad. They
have neither the time nor the inclination to be distracted from their
daily lives; such luxuries are meant for those who do not have to worry
about putting food on the table.
No offence is meant to Nehru or his legacy, such as it is, but surely we
do not need to convert ritual genuflection at the altar of the founder
of the Dynasty that has ruled India for most of its post-independence
era, barring four brief interludes, into a national celebration whose
very foundation would rest on hagiographic praise and not critical
assessment? Democracies whose democratic credentials are much stronger
than ours would shun such idolatry, but then, we are steeped in a
culture that abhors iconoclasm.
Nehru will neither become greater nor shall his stature diminish if
manufactured anniversaries are avoided and his good deeds and thoughts,
for instance his emphasis on promoting the scientific temperament, are
made elements of Government’s policies and programmes. To tout him as
the mascot of a discredited political organisation and a discarded
Dynasty, or to heap fulsome praise on him while glossing over his
foibles and follies, is both unfair and unwarranted.
The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta