The Congress has not invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to an international conference it is organising to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, joining the battle with Modi, who it accuses of trying to appropriate freedom movement leaders.
The two-day event to highlight the legacy and worldview of the first Prime Minister is being organised on November 17 and 18 and will be attended by a host of international leaders and representatives of various political parties from India and abroad.
“We have not given any invitation to the Prime Minister. We have invited all those who truly believe in democracy and the ideals of Nehru,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said replying to a volley of media questions about whether it has invited Modi and why not.
Interestingly, the party has put out the eulogising remarks about Nehru made by BJP’s first Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the website specially launched for the event on Tuesday.
“Have we not acknowledged Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We are acknowledging all those who have said something meaningful. As a political party, we have our freedom to decide who subscribes to Nehru’s views,” he said.
Sources said that Congress will not invite any leader of BJP and its allies for the event.
The party has accused Modi of trying to appropriate leaders of the freedom movement like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Nehru by launching special schemes and diverting attention from their legacy.
There is already a National Committee for commemoration of Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary chaired by the Prime Minister, which was reconstituted after the new government came to power.
Sharma said the conference will discuss Nehru’s views on democracy, inclusion and empowerment in India and for the representative global order. It will provide a platform to reflect on Nehru’s worldview and legacy in the context of contemporary global challenges.
The event is being organised separately by the Congress even as the government has already indicated that it will organise Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary this year in a mega way to increase awareness about ‘Chacha Nehru’ through a number of initiatives like organising ‘Year of Bal Swachhta’.
“Is it not the duty of Congress to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Nehru, who was its leader…we are not subordinate to the government…We are neither the petitioners before the government nor we will make a demand when it comes to upholding the dignity of freedom fighters and our leaders,” Sharma said.
He was asked whether the AICC is trying to make the occasion an issue of confrontation with the government and whether it will demand that the government celebrate the occasion in a better way.
The official committee, initially set up by the Manmohan Singh government also included Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who had opted out of the committee in May itself. The reconstituted committee has no member from the Gandhi family.
Referring to the books written by Nehru on India’s history, culture and ethos, the Congress spokesperson said, “Those who are claiming to be bigger have not even a chapter to their credit. I do not want to debate about individuals who are dwarfed by the even the very name of Nehru.”
Replying to questions on whether the Congress should not have extended the courtesy to the Prime Minister on this occasion when international leaders are being invited, Sharma shot back asking whether Modi himself had taken care of such courtesies.
“This government, beginning from the Prime Minister to others, is trying to usurp the legacy of leaders of our freedom movement and our leaders without subscribing to their views,” he said.
The view in the Congress is that the Modi government is hell bent on obliterating the vestiges of Nehruvian legacy.
“Those who think that Nehruvian view can be subverted are ignorant and illiterate about India’s freedom movement and the psyche of the its people. Nehru was too great and his legacy too powerful to be subverted by those who consider themselves larger than life,” Sharma said.
The New Delhi conference being organised by Congress will have two subject sessions — Inclusive Demcocracy and People’s Empowerment, and Nehru’s Worldview and a Democratic Global Order for the 21st Century.
The conference will conclude with a commemorative declaration, which will will capture the essence of the deliberations and convey a message of global import.
Eminent leaders participating in the event include former Presidents Hamid Karzai from Afghanistan, John Kufuor of Ghana, General Obasanjo of Nigeria, former Prime Minister Madhav K Nepal of Nepal and Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, Queen Mother of Bhutan besides Asma Jehangir from Pakistan, veteran South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada and leadership delegations from 11 political parties across the globe.
Besides this international conference, the Congress will hold another event on November 13 in the national capital marking the beginning of one year-long celebration of the event across the country during which NSUI and Youth Congress will launch signature campaigns, quiz and essay competitions in colleges and universities and other event on Nehru.