There is a heightened competition on to
own the Mahatma, the brand 'Gandhi'.
There is one group, having a huge
resurgence in Indian politics taking the centrestage of governance and heading
the first majority government in the country in 30 years, that is looking to
make the crux of a phase of Indian history contemporary, by bypassing the period of the Indian political
history when the 'Gandhi' word also came to be associated with the first
political family of India. The resurgent group wants to take away the 'Gandhi'
word from this political legacy, in order to own it, or in order to make it the
central tool of its political packaging.
The other group that has traditionally
claimed to own 'Gandhi' is not going to let it be so. This group that claims to
own the 'Gandhi' surname in the name of the ideological commitment to the
Gandhian thoughts failed to follow the path laid by the Mahatma.
Likewise, even the resurgent
group cannot claim to follow the path of the Mahatma.
But, both main political groups,
Bhartiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress, have locked horns in owning
the word 'Gandhi', in claiming the brand 'Gandhi 'associated with the Mahatma.
It was again on full display
today, October 2, the birth anniversary of the Mahatma, the day that is also
the birth anniversary of another great Indian, freedom fighter, Gandhian and
former prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri.
But no one can own them. The rush
to own the icons like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
is futile. They are of humanity. Their ideals, their values speak to the humanity.
They speak for the humanity.
Great Indian icons like the Swami
and the Mahatma are now the universal icons. India, the world over, is recognized
by their names.
Many who don't know much about
India know much more about the Mahatma. It can be said beyond doubt that no
Indian can do what a British, Sir Richard Attenborough, did with his 'Gandhi'
in 1982, and what an English actor did by assimilating the Mahatma so deeply
that it is beyond imagination to think even if there can be anyone else to play
the Mahatma on screen than Sir Ben Kingsley.
Attenborough's Gandhi is still
and will remain the first introduction to the teachings and the life of the
Mahatma for many Indians as well as the people and generations the world over. Unfortunately,
the master storyteller, Sir Attenborough, is no more with us. This is the first
year of watching 'Gandhi' when he is not with the humanity.
No political party or ideology
can own the Mahatma. He is a universal brand, a brand that speaks for the greatest
contemporary political visionary. A universal brand that is becoming more and
more relevant for the world populations with increasing threats of terrorism
Thankfully, there is no rush to claim Lal Bahadur Shastri so far, though being known as the hero of the India-Pakistan was of 1965 that India won during his terms as the prime minister. That makes him a potential choice. Yes, like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he was also a Congress member. But he was first a Gandhian and then a Nehruvian socialist. Also, his humble background, his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle and a simple life (instalments of his car were still due when he died while still in office) place him above the party politics for most of the Indians. His slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan (Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer) still reverberates in Indian psyche.
He was one of the few great pre-Independence Indians who remained the same person even after two decades of experiencing being in power in country's most powerful power citadels. Let's see when he comes on the radar.
Yes, but it is always good and beneficial
for the social structures when political outfits try to align them with the
Mahatma or other Greats, for doing so would require following the Gandhian thoughts and the
Gandhian path, if the intent is honest.
And humanity is at the core of the Gandhian thoughts.
Tribute to the greats on their birth anniversaries.