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Looking behind BJP’s discovery of Gandhi

The BJP seems to have suddenly discovered the virtues of Mahatma Gandhi at the just-concluded national executive and council meet at Nagpur....

Written by Suman K Jha | Nagpur | Published: February 10, 2009 11:20:15 pm

The BJP seems to have suddenly discovered the virtues of Mahatma Gandhi at the just-concluded national executive and council meet at Nagpur,a city known more for its ideological mentor,the RSS,and its founder Dr K B Hedgewar.

While Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi gave credit to former PM P V Narasimha Rao for breaking away from the socialist pattern of growth,and the “Gandhian model of economic growth” unlikely to get a thumbs up from the party,the BJP’s attempts to appropriate the Mahatma were nevertheless interesting.

BJP president Rajnath Singh dwelt at length on Gandhi’s seminal work Hind Swaraj for two days. He also mentioned one of the party’s founders,Deendayal Upadhyay,known for propounding the thesis of “Integral Humanism”,in the same breath,and argued that “India’s future must be centred around their vision of development”.

“All the works associated with Gandhian ethos,if at all are visible,will not be found in that parivar of the Congress but in our parivar. They (the Congress) are only a name while we are the ones who are carrying forward his actual work,” the BJP chief said in his presidential address at the party’s national council.

His sudden love for Gandhi had a lot to do with a new recruit in the party’s national executive,P Muralidhar Rao. Rajnath’s long-time aide Sudhanshu Trivedi too is known to hold definitive views on “Gandhi and Hindu symbols”.

As a former convener of the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch,Rao — who cut his teeth in public life under Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh founder Dattopant Thengdi and later S Gurumurthy — had researched on the “convergence of philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhyay”.

Rao,along with one-time mentor and former BJP general secretary K N Govindacharya,is known for an economic model based on the “jal,zameen,jungle (water,land,forests)” economic philosophy,which they think to be “appropriate for the country”.

Rajnath in his speech had accused the Congress of deviating from everything Gandhi stood for: “In today’s Congress’s thinking neither is there any Hind Swaraj nor Gram Swaraj; no place for villages and no respect for the farmers; no swadeshi cottage industries; no section living a simple life of sacrifice is connected to them; neither is there a swadeshi style nor swadeshi language.”

“Going by today’s parameters,the very symbol of Gandhian karma vaad,the Srimad Bhagwat Gita could be branded as communal and the very basis of Gandhi’s vision of Ram Rajya would be dubbed as communal. Gandhi’s favourite prayers,be it Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram or Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye,would be communal by today’s parameters,” he added.

When asked about his understanding of Gandhi and how it found its way into the BJP philosophy,Rao was not willing to say much. “I’m still learning,” is what he said.

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