A full blown backstage drama preceded the Lata Mangeshkar mega show Narendra Modi attended to celebrate the golden jubilee of “aey mere watan ke logon” in Mumbai.
Frantic efforts were made by the show’s organiser, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, to mollify the family of Kavi Pradeep who penned the timeless lyric. The poet’s daughters were revolted by their deceased father’s derision in public by a leading BJP politician.
A minister in the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh, Kailash Vijayvargiya allegedly used unprintable language against Pradeep. He rubbished at a function in Indore the poet’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent stewardship of the freedom struggle in another, equally memorable song “Dey di hamey azadi bina khadag bina dhaal, Sabarmati ke sant tuney kar diya kamaal.”
Vajayvargiya’s diatribe against Pradeep, and by implication Gandhi, wasn’t an act of madness. The method to it is evident in Modi’s parallel bid to pit Sardar Patel’s legacy against Pandit Nehru’s.
The shocking incident was largely underplayed in the mainstream national media. What hurt Pradeep’s younger daughter, Mitul Pradeep more was Vijayvargiya’s qualified apology underscoring his right to hold a view. She did get a response to the protest letter she wrote to Modi but BJP chief Rajnath Singh and Chauhan ignored her missives.
By its deafening silence, the Congress too let down Pradeep’s family as also the legacy of the Mahatma that Vijayvargiya dared to question.
In his controversial speech, the BJP leader dubbed ‘Sabarmati ke sant’ as a propaganda effort to eulogise Gandhi at the expense of other revolutionaries. He buttressed his point by naming Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad whose aggressive tactics against the British were an anti-thesis of Gandhi’s weapon of “ahimsa” (non-violence).
Mitul was invited to the Mumbai function by Lodha, who visited her to apologise for Vijayvargiya’s distasteful comments. But she kept away, letting elder sister Sargam Thaker and her husband represent the family at the celebrations.
Modi inquired about Mitul in a brief on-stage conversation with Sargam. He said he had been watching the poet’s younger daughter on TV. “Why hasn’t she come? Baat adhuri rah gaye….”
Mitul told HT that Modi sought Sargam’s blessings, addressed her as his ‘elder sister’ and even promised to visit the family at their Mumbai residence.
In her December 24 letter to Modi, Mitul quoted newspaper reports to allege that the Madhya Pradesh minister wanted to pummel her father for having praised Gandhi in the song. She said the comments distressed her family no end as Pradeep was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Puraskaar by the Vajpayee government.
In his January 3 reply, Modi made no reference to Gandhi while terming as “unfortunate” Vijayvargiya’s comments on “your late father, whom all of us respect.” He said he has forwarded her letter to the MP CM besides speaking to him on phone for ‘appropriate decision.’
But Mitul’s waiting. There’s no word yet from Chauhan.