In a veiled attack on the BJP, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said on Monday Jawaharlal Nehru’s ideas were under threat from “misrepresentation and distortion”, trying to reach out to non-NDA parties to bring them together on a “secular” platform.
The remarks come at a time when the BJP and the Congress are in a tug-of-war over the legacy of India’s first prime minister. The Congress invited international and the country’s top political leaders for a conference to mark Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary, leaving out Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
“There could be no Indianness, no India, without secularism. Secularism was, and remains, more than an ideal. It is a compelling necessity for a country as diverse as India,” Gandhi said.
“Nehru once remarked that wealth shouts but knowledge whispers. That whisper of knowledge about Nehru’s life and work has weakened in recent years in our country, drowned out by misinterpretation and distortion.”
The Congress, humiliated in the Lok Sabha polls and recent assembly elections, is looking to reach out to parties such as the Trinamool Congress, CPM and JD (United) that have often accused the BJP of following a communal agenda.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, CPM leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, CPI’s D Raja, NCP general secretary DP Tripathi, former PM and JD (Secular) president HD Deve Gowda were among those who attended the conference organised by the Congress. The Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, however, chose to skip the event.
“The BJP won because regional parties didn’t fight unitedly. If regional forces come together, the BJP will lose,” Banerjee said. The BJP has managed to make inroads in her state, often leading to bloody clashes between the supporters of the two sides. The state is due for assembly polls in 2016.
Karat, however, scotched speculation about a joint front against the BJP. “Nothing more should be read into our participation,” he said.
The BJP was quick to take a dig at the Congress. “Has the guest list been influenced by the current depleting fortunes of the Congress party?” finance minister Arun Jaitley said. “Those who rejected Panditji’s politics in his lifetime, are a part of the show of strength at this symposium.”
Nehru had explained that the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai (Hail Mother India)” did not mean only land of India but also its people, said former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, who was among the many international leaders at the meet.