Indira Gandhi might have received low-key attention from the Narendra Modi government on her 30th death anniversary recently, but her father Jawaharlal Nehru is likely to be treated very differently. Prime Minister Modi wants the government to initiate activities that will ‘connect’ Nehru with the people during his 125th birth anniversary that is being commemorated this year. That is what Modi told members of the committee that has to decide on the programmes to honour the memory of India’s first Prime Minister.
“Hum jo bhi karen, kuch aisa karen ki Nehru ko janmaanas ke saath joda ja sake (Whatever we do, it should be something that helps in connecting Nehru with the masses),” Modi is learnt to have said in his brief opening remarks at the first meeting of the reconstituted committee on November 1.
According to sources who attended the meeting, Modi then went on to offer his own suggestion on how to go about doing this. “Ek tareeka ye hai ki abhi sarkaar ki jo bhi prathmiktayen hain unke saath Nehru ko joda jaye (One way of doing this is to link this government’s priorities with Nehru’s views),” he said.
While remembering Nehru’s love for children, Modi said the government’s Swachh Bharat campaign could be taken to schools as a message on cleanliness from Nehru to the students. Children can then be made a special focus group for the cleanliness drive, he said.
The other thing Modi recalled was Nehru’s stress on developing science and technology and his efforts in building scientific institutions. He said as a tribute to Nehru some programmes could be launched to help in spreading scientific temper amongst people, especially children who always were Nehru’s special constituency.
After offering his suggestions, Modi is learnt to have said that he had come to hear the ideas of others. Some members who were part of the original committee formed last year during the UPA rule informed the Prime Minister about the proposals that had been approved in earlier meetings. A website for Nehru, hosted and managed by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), a Rs 10 crore grant for the uplift and upgradation of the NMML, and creation of a grant for scholars engaging in research on Nehru were some of the decisions that had been taken earlier.
Modi said the government will honour all the earlier decisions but repeated that whatever activities were undertaken, these should aim at ‘connecting’ Nehru to the people, ‘bringing him closer’ to the masses, according to sources who attended the meeting. “Nehru ko janmaanas ke saath jodna zaroori hai (It is important to connect Nehru with the masses),” he is learnt to have repeated.
Modi’s comments came just a day after the government marked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary with much fanfare and greater zeal than it had been done in recent times. In contrast, it largely ignored the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi which happens to fall on the same day. Modi did not attend the morning programme at Indira Gandhi’s memorial because it coincided with the National Unity run organised at India Gate to mark Patel’s birthday.
The government’s interest in Patel has often been seen as an attempt to create a counter-narrative to Nehru. Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu only added more fuel to the fire when, speaking at the India Gate event, he said India’s history would have been very different had Patel become India’s first Prime Minister instead of Nehru.
Incidentally, the Congress party is organising an ‘international conference’ on November 18-19 in memory of Nehru and has decided not to invite Modi for the event. Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said only those who believed in Nehru’s ideals had been invited.
Congress members in the commemoration committee — Karan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge — were however said to be very satisfied with Modi’s remarks at the meeting.
Karan Singh had told The Indian Express that contrary to the belief that the government was likely to ignore Nehru, Modi seemed quite interested in Nehru and came out as someone very keen to take Nehru’s message to the people.
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