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Gandhi@150: BJP, Oppn battle to claim Mahatma's legacy

Last updated on: October 02, 2019 19:11 IST

The Congress, which has seen over the years a gradual appropriation of some of its stalwarts by the BJP, launched a counter-drive and projected the saffron party as an unworthy champion of the ideals of the father of the nation.

IMAGE: Union home minister Amit Shah and Union health minister Harsh Vardhan during the launch of 'Sankalp Yatra' against plastic on Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary in New Delhi. Photograph: PTI Photo

The BJP and the Opposition battled to claim Mahatma Gandhi's legacy on his 150th birth anniversary as ruling party chief Amit Shah launched a nation-wide exercise to propagate his ideals while Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had a dig at it, saying the Mahatma's soul would have been pained by what has been happening in India under the present dispensation.

Shah, who has been at the centre of his party's elaborate plans for a four-month drive on Gandhi, kicked off the 'Gandhi Sankalp Yatra' with an address, followed by a march in the national capital as other senior leaders undertook similar programmes across the country.

Narendra Modi is the first prime minister who has made cleanliness a mass movement as Gandhi did, he said, asking people to shun single-use plastic.

The Congress, which has seen over the years a gradual appropriation of some of its stalwarts by the BJP, launched a counter-drive and projected the saffron party as an unworthy champion of the ideals of the father of the nation.

Paying homage to the Mahatma at Rajghat, Sonia Gandhi said those indulging in falsehood cannot understand Bapu's ideals, claiming the Congress was the only party that followed the path shown by him and carried on his legacy.

 

Her son and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi led a march of party workers from the Delhi Congress office to Rajghat while his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attended a programme in Lucknow.

In the national capital, top BJP leaders, including its working president J P Nadda and Union minister Rajnath Singh, besides Shah, led processions and extolled on Gandhi's ideals of non-violence, cleanliness, self-reliance and use of khadi among others.

Though he has been savage in his criticism of the Congress for its alleged neglect of Gandhi's ideals by promoting dynasty and corruption, Shah refrained from attacking the opposition party on Wednesday.

The BJP had asked its 3,229 MPs, MLAs, other elected representatives and office-bearers to undertake 'pad yatra' (foot march) for 15 days.

In the run up to Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, Modi had given a call to his party to make the day memorable and asked its leaders to organise events to commemorate the day.

Often accused by the opposition and its critics of paying lip-service to Gandhi's ideals while working against them, the saffron party made elaborate plans to celebrate the occasion in its bid to present itself as a champion of his legacy.

Facing increasing political marginalisation after another massive defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress leaders undertook their own foot marches and slammed the BJP.

Sonia Gandhi attacked the Modi government for seeking to appropriate the Mahatma's legacy.

No matter what they might claim, only the Congress has followed Bapu's path and provided jobs, education and facilities to farmers, accomplishments which are unparalleled, she said.

IMAGE: Congress president Sonia Gandhi addresses as party's leader Rahul Gandhi looks on, at Rajghat to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi after party's Gandhi Sandesh ‘Pad Yatra’ from DPCC to Rajghat in New Delh. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

"How can those who pursue the politics of falsehood understand that Gandhiji was the worshipper of truth? How can those who can do anything for power understand that Gandhiji was a worshipper of non-violence?

"How can those thirsty for power understand the meaning of Gandhiji's Swaraj? Those who claim to be supreme at the first opportunity, how can they understand the value of selfless service of Gandhiji?" she asked while attacking those in power.

Sonia Gandhi said there has never been any dearth of those who tried to distract India from the path shown by Gandhi while citing his name.

"Despite all this, if India has not been distracted it is because its foundation is laid on the values of Gandhiji. India and Gandhiji are synonymous with each other. It is a different thing that some people are adamant on reversing this. They want the RSS and not Gandhiji to become the symbol of India.

"I want to tell them clearly... there cannot be any thought except Gandhiji's all-inclusive system, that includes the composite culture, civilisation and society of India," she said.

Earlier in the morning, Rahul Gandhi fronted a march of party workers from the Delhi Congress office at the Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg to Rajghat.

He said he paid tribute to Gandhi, who through his words and deeds, showed us that love for all living beings and non violence is the only way to defeat oppression, bigotry and hatred.

In the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, Priyanka Gandhi said the BJP should first pursue the path of truth and then talk about Gandhi.

She made the remarks before participating in a silent three-kilometre march that culminated in GPO Park, where floral tributes were paid to Mahatma Gandhi

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav lashed out at the BJP, saying those who never walked on Mahatma Gandhi's path of truth, non-violence and social harmony are now celebrating his 150th birth anniversary.

Participating in his party's programme at GPO Park, he said this is a ploy of the saffron party's politics to hide its wrong deeds.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat said Gandhi had visited a 'shakha' of the Hindutva organisation during the time of Partition, interacted with swayamsevaks (volunteers) and expressed joy over their discipline and the absence of divisive feelings over caste and creed among them.

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