Updated: September 21, 2017 6:53:26 am
On September 24, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to Kerala’s Kozhikode to kick start the centenary birth celebrations of the Jana Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya. A year, two committees — a 149-member national panel chaired by the PM and a 23-member executive committee headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh — and a budget of Rs 100 crore later, the celebrations are to conclude with a mega event in New Delhi on Monday (September 25).
The celebrations are part of a concerted campaign by the ruling BJP to resurrect its ideologues, particularly Deendayal Upadhyaya, who intellectuals and historians remember more for his disavowal of secularism and emphasis on a Hindu Rashtra. Since it stormed to power in 2014, the BJP-led NDA government has launched a series of social welfare programmes and schemes in Upadhyaya’s name (see box), while also naming railway stations, ports and educational institutions after the prominent leader of the Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the BJP. His writings have been compiled and re-launched, while all top party leaders, including the Prime Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah, as well as President Ramnath Kovind, have put him on the same pedestal as Mahatma Gandhi.
As early as September 25, 2014, Deendayal’s first birth anniversary under the present government, the Centre launched the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY), integrating the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) for alleviating poverty in urban and rural areas by enhancing livelihood opportunities through skill development. The mission’s aim is to provide shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner. On the same day, the Rural Development Ministry announced the Deendayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) Antyodaya Diwas; its objective to diversify the incomes of rural poor families and to cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.
The Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Shramev Jayate Karyakram, launched in October 2014, was to create a conducive environment for industrial development through among others, expanding government support to impart skill training for workers, while the rural avatar of the Start Up India scheme was named as the Deendayal Upadhyaya Swaniyojan Yojana (DUSY). It was just the beginning.
In his last budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had re-branded a number of social welfare schemes, to honour Upadhyaya. The scheme to provide electricity to rural homes — earlier known as the Rajeev Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana — was augmented and introduced as the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana at an outlay of Rs 76,000 crore.
The Centre also recently approved a proposal to name the Mughalsarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh, where he died in 1968, after the Jana Sangh leader. The agriculture ministry has proposed instituting an award after Upadhyaya to recognise the contribution of small and marginal farmers.
The BJP-ruled states too have been vying with each other to immortalise the Jana Sangh leader. While the Haryana government is all set to install a 51-feet statue of the leader at one of its tourist complexes, Madhya Pradesh has made it mandatory for his photograph to be carried on all advertisements issued by the state government. Elected representatives in Rajasthan have been asked to print their letter heads with a logo of his picture, while Uttar Pradesh has a number of crash courses on the ideologue.
The Goa government has launched the Deendayal Swasthya Seva Yojana to provide health insurance for those residing in Goa for five years and more, while his statue was unveiled in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, in November 2016. The only blip has been in Assam, where the state government last week rescinded its decision to name model colleges after Upadhyaya, due to opposition from local organisations.
BJP leaders say that both the RSS and the party strongly believe that history, as it is available today, had been misrepresented and that there had been a deliberate attempt to sideline its ideologues and icons. “In course of time after Independence, the Congress only focused on members of the Nehru family. They had in the process neglected leaders who had done so much for the country and the society. The BJP feels it is right to have a balanced view on all those who had contributed to the freedom struggle,” says BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao.
He had in 2014, while launching the latest edition of Upadhyaya’s The Two Plans: Promises, Performance, Prospects, said Nehruvian socialism was outdated while the Jana Sangh ideologue’s economic philosophy was more relevant for the country. According to Rao, the dismantling of Planning Commission was a clear indication that the ideas of Upadhyaya, who had opposed Five Year Plans, would be the flavour of the day.
The move to invoke the memory of Upadhyaya is in line with the grand strategy outlined by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on October 3, 2014. Bhagwat had then said that the BJP and the RSS would bring in new national heroes who would help the party gain acceptance across a cross section of society and in the process, make “corrections” in recorded history. Upadhyaya’s name figured prominently in Bhagwat’s speech.
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