New Delhi: Gandhi Jayanti was celebrated the way Gandhi Jayantis are every year — with floral tributes, vows of cleanliness, khadi marches and promises of fulfilling Gandhian dreams. But in the midst of the annual ritual, almost as an interruption, the public, private and the very political got mixed up.
Politics was over another jayanti. Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the Raj Ghat early morning, but skipped the Vijay Ghat to commemorate Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birth anniversary, even though the government is celebrating the golden jubilee of the 1965 war victory over Pakistan, a Shastri legacy. From Delhi CM Kejriwal to Hardik Patel, and the Congress thrown in between, pounced on this oversight, variously calling it ‘unfortunate’ and an ‘insult’. Surprisingly, Shastri’s own son, Congressman Anil Shastri, in between calling for declassification of files on his father’s mysterious death, came to defend the PM: “Maybe, he was genuinely busy, he did not have time to take a 5-min detour.”
Politics apart, Modi became the first PM to skip a visit to the Vijay Ghat — Shastri’s Samadhi on October 2. The government has decided it would not celebrate birth anniversaries of any late PMs, that’s the official reasoning. Amidst this tussle and a Modi rally in Bihar, the Gandhi Jayanti nearly lost eminence but for the social media, where the Mahatma may not have trended but his message of non-violence surfaced through a tweet from an ‘estranged’ Gandhi, BJP MP Varun. Varun, who has of late taken to writing against capital punishment, tweeted a pledge invite , “not support use of religion and religious violence in politics.” Coming in the backdrop of the Dadri incident, it was obvious what Varun, MP from UP, was hinting at. As for a peaceful message, it came from agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan who tweeted his childhood memory of seeing Gandhiji at his residence.
But that nothing is sacrosanct in a nation given to expression on the net was also evident. A news website ran a ‘know-your-Mahatma quiz’ as its main offering of the day. And, one of the questions was ‘when was Feroze borne to Gandhi and his wife?’… so much for a jayanti.
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