AFTER a prolonged feud between Mahadev Vidrohi, president of apex Gandhian institution Sarva Seva Sangh (SSS), and T R N Prabhu, president of Sevagram Ashram at Wardha, a patch up may be on the cards. A four-member panel, constituted by Vidrohi to look into issues leading to the feud, has recommended a compromise and a “sympathetic” view about Prabhu.
The panel, however, also made a point to draw a distinction between the Congress party at the time of the setting up of the two institutions and the one that exists today. This was in reference to Prabhu’s refusal to offer the Ashram premises for a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in October 2018, on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a decision which had prompted Vidrohi to criticise Prabhu and call him a “Godsewadi”, before ‘removing’ him from the post of Ashram president in March.
Several Gandhians had criticised Vidrohi’s action, saying the Sangh president only has the authority to appoint the Ashram president, not to remove him, as per the Sangh constitution.
Prabhu’s removal, the first such instance in the Ashram’s history before the president could complete the five-year term, had created a flutter among Gandhians across the country. Last month, an upset Prabhu had ‘resigned’ from his post. After several Gandhians appealed Prabhu to continue as the Ashram president. he withdrew his resignation.
Vidrohi had later set up a four-member committee, led by senior Gandhian Bhavanishankar Kusum, to study the matter and give suggestions. The panel, after talking to various stakeholders, submitted its report, which was discussed in a Sangh meeting on June 29. The online meeting was attended by 22 representatives from 13 states.
“We have decided to seriously consider the recommendations by the committee of senior Gandhians,” Vidrohi told The Indian Express. Asked if that meant “withdrawing the action against Prabhu”, Vidrohi said, “no decision has been taken yet. The committee has recommended that we take a sympathetic view and since it has come from senior members, we will seriously consider it.”
Kusum said, “We have recommended certain long and short-term measures to overcome the present problems facing the Sangh and the Ashram. We have found that many problems occur due to a communication gap. So, we have suggested that we must evolve methods of better communication. Another long-term suggestion was for building a consensus among all Gandhian institutions about what the essentials of Gandhian philosophy are, so there is no dispute.”
Asked how, in that context, the committee viewed Prabhu’s refusal to allow the CWC meet, Kusum said, “It’s fine that the Ashram and Sangh were both founded by the then Congress leadership. But we have to distinguish between that and today’s Congress. That Congress’ philosophy can’t be equated with the politics of today’s Congress party.”
On Vidrohi accuing Prabhu of being a ‘Godsewadi’ Kusum said, “… Such reactions should be avoided. But we have seen at least three Sangh presidents in the past… who had displayed pro-RSS leanings. The RSS had even captured the Gandhi Vidya Sansthan set up by Jaiprakash Narayan, which had to be taken back from them after a long legal battle. So, we need to be cautious about it. We noted that Prabhu was wrong in not issuing a statement when some fanatics fired gun shots at Gandhi’s portait, but to outrightly call him a ‘Godsewadi’ wasn’t right.”
Kusum added, “…We have suggested that looking at Prabhu’s honesty, his reinstatement should be seriously considered till the new president is elected.”
The committee also recommended withdrawing the decision to “relieve” senior Sangh member Chandan Pal of his position. “All those attending the meeting on June 29 have accepted our recommendations,” said Kusum.
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