Rajmohan Gandhi or Narendra Modi, take your pick

I believe the Aam Aadmi Party could have no better candidate to field against Narendra Modi than Rajmohan Gandhi. He would be a more formidable candidate than Arvind Kejriwal against Modi.

columns Updated: Feb 25, 2014 21:37 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Rajmohan Gandhi,Narendra Modi,Mahatma Gandhi's grandson

I have been a fan of Rajmohan Gandhi ever since he told me some years ago at a book signing event that, as a child, he used to play around the office of the Hindustan Times in Bombay while his father sat editing the newspaper through the day. If readers are familiar with Gandhi memorabilia, then Rajmohan Gandhi is the little boy who is seen helping his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, holding on to his stick and leading him through the sands of Juhu Chowpatty in that classic photograph of Gandhiji on his evening walk.

But Rajmohan's connection with the Hindustan Times is not the reason for my admiration of the man. As I spoke to him briefly at the book signing event, I got a peek into his mind and realised why he is called not just an 'author' but also a 'thinker'. My admiration was fortified when during the course of a recent controversy, Rajmohan, along with his cousin Gopalkrishna Gandhi, prevailed upon the government of India not to ban a book that made some unsavoury comments about Mahatma Gandhi and thereby upheld the values of freedom of thought and expression.

But why was the government of India even thinking of banning that book? Because Narendra Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, had done so (besides banning many other books and films) and perhaps those in the UPA government at the Centre did not want to lag behind Modi, given that they consider themselves as the custodians of the Gandhi legacy.

So even as young students of journalism ask me why the media has not taken up the cause of freedom of expression in the wake of the decision by a leading publisher to pulp Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History, which has allegedly offended the sentiments of fringe Hindutva groups, I believe the Aam Aadmi Party could have no better candidate to field against Narendra Modi than Rajmohan Gandhi. He would be a more formidable candidate than Arvind Kejriwal against Modi. Rajmohan, who is also the grandson of India's first governor general C Rajagopalachari (that is how he gets his name - from his two illustrious grandfathers) is quite the anti-thesis of the Gujarat chief minister and has every quality that a nation like India needs in its politicians and parliamentarians. With Modi you can be sure that more than just Doniger's book will be pulped in this country; with Rajmohan Gandhi you can be certain none of your freedoms will be violated.

When Modi had set out to build the tallest statue in the world of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, it was Rajmohan Gandhi who had warned against that act, not because, like the Congress, he thought only one party could lay claim to the leaders of our freedom struggle, but because he saw before the rest of us did that this would only lead to competitive statue building - the Maharashtra government is already set to build an equally tall statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, Dalit groups have already demanded that Modi build a taller statue of their icon BR Ambedkar and it could be only a matter of time before a demand emerges from West Bengal to top that with a statue of Subhash Chandra Bose across the Howrah Bridge.

Of course, Rajmohan Gandhi had in the past contested as a Janata Dal candidate against Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi and was defeated in the Nehru-Gandhi fiefdom. But now it could be different. Last time round, even BJP and Shiv Sena candidates had driven Modi out of Maharashtra when the Congress replied with a classic retort to his promise to turn Maharashtra into another Gujarat - they would rather have Gandhi's Gujarat than Modi's Gujarat.

Now, I notice, Modi's campaign is promising to turn the rest of India into another Gujarat. I am sure, given the choice, even India would rather opt for Gandhi (or his grandson) than Modi. So, is this why Modi is afraid to play his hand so soon and declare his constituency?

First Published: Feb 25, 2014 21:26 IST