As India celebrates Sardar Patel Jayanti today, both BJP and Congress are locked in a curious battle over the alleged neglect of the tall leader by the Grand Old Party. The BJP contends that the Congress never really promoted the legacy of leaders other than those belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Sardar Patel was one of those leaders among many neglected by the Congress, claims BJP.
On Tuesday, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a veiled attack on the Congress, saying some parties and governments in the past have tried to erase contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in unifying the country after Independence. “There have been attempts to run down Patel, to ensure that the contribution of Patel is forgotten. But Sardar is Sardar, whether any government or any party recognises his contribution or not but the nation and the youth will not forget him,” Modi said after flagging off a run to commemorate the 142nd birth anniversary of Patel.
Modi said that India is united today, despite the colonial rulers’ wish that it was disintegrated into smaller states after Independence, because of the statesmanship and political acumen of first home minister Patel. “The youth of India respects him and his contribution towards the building of our nation,” he said.
People tried to ensure the contribution of Sardar Patel is forgotten. However, the youth of India respects him and his contribution towards the building of our nation: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) October 31, 2017
In contrast to the saffron party, Congress disagrees, saying Sardar’s legacy was never neglected by the party. “Nothing like that, this is wrong. We have never ignored Sardar Patel’s contribution,” former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit told ANI when asked about Modi’s remarks.
We salute Sardar Patel on his Jayanti. His momentous service and monumental contribution to India can never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/t9TFeii3IP
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 31, 2017
Ever since coming to power in 2014, Modi government has made concerted efforts to bring the legacy of leaders like Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri to the public discourse. The BJP government is also building a tall statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat. The ‘Run For Unity’ is another attempt in this regard. But the timing of Modi’s attack on Congress on Tuesday cannot be seen without the prism of upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections.
How one wishes Gandhiji had anointed Sardar Vallabhbhai as the first Prime Minister of India! There would have been no Kashmir problem
— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) October 31, 2017
Sardar Patel stood for unity – of all castes, communities, religions and worldviews. His birth anniversary should never be a day for scoring political brownie points.
An embodiment of integrity & strength, Sardar Patel was one of the architects of Idea of India. My tributes to him on his birth anniversary. pic.twitter.com/RgoGklx9kA
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 31, 2017
In Gujarat, for the first time in 22 years, BJP is pitted against a loud group of young leaders comprising Rahul Gandhi, Jignesh Mevani, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore. And apparently, for the first time, small traders of the state are not happy with the saffron party.
अखंड भारत के निर्माता,राष्ट्र गौरव, लौह पुरुष सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल जी की जयंती पर शत्-शत् नमन।वीर वल्लभ को नमन
जय सरदार pic.twitter.com/QkZ80rGdVa
— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 31, 2017
Gujarat elections are set to be the biggest and a tricky test for Modi since he came to power at the Centre. And the Prime Minister is leaving no stone unturned to gain his supporters’ trust back, even if it takes some political statements in the name of Sardar Patel, which he made today. But, will it work? (With agency inputs)