Amid a slugfest between Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress over Sardar Patel, a noted biographer of Patel has said the country’s first home minister would not have recognised Modi as his ideological heir and been very “pained” with his behaviour towards Muslims.
A still image from video shows an artist's rendering of a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, to be constructed in Gujarat, in this handout provided by Information Department Gujarat State. REUTERS
Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who has written a biography of the country’s first home minister, said Patel certainly would not have felt at the time of 2002 riots in Gujarat, that Modi fulfilled his ‘rajdharma’, a phrase used by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to chide Modi.
Talking to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate, Gandhi said that claims by BJP supporters or Narendra Modi himself to project him as Sardar Patel’s heir misunderstands and misrepresents Patel.
“I think it is quite obvious that he (Patel) would have been very disappointed, very pained and saddened not only as an Indian statesman but also as coming from Gujarat, that this should not have happened in Gujarat and the government of the time was not able to prevent it,” he said.
“If Modi can grow into that kind of image that would be wonderful, but by two reasons he has fallen short. After all Patel grew as a disciple under the umbrella of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. Modi had his career under the umbrella of RSS and that makes a difference,” he said.
Gandhi, however, said that the Congress had forgotten Patel or relegated him to the background in the 63 years since his death. He said that Nehru was succeeded by Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi, while none of Patel’s children inherited or benefited from his political power.
The ‘Iron man’, a popular term used for Patel, had appreciated the work of RSS during riots in 1947 but after Gandhi’s assassination, his attitude changed and he was thereafter an implacable opponent if not an enemy of the Hindutva organisation, he said.
Modi and Congress leaders have engaged in a war of words over Patel with the BJP’s PM candidate claiming that the country’s destiny would have been different had he been the first PM instead of Nehru.
Congress has hit back at him, saying he was trying to hijack Patel’s legacy as BJP lacked any icon.