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Congress To Blame For Loss OfPatel’s Legacy To BJP

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By Sidharth Mishra
For the past three decades, October 31 was observed as day of mourning in the memory of assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. On the morning of October 31, 1984 she was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards as she walked out into the lawns of her residence at 10 Safdarjung Road in New Delhi. This was their revenge for Operation Bluestar, ordered by her earlier that year, which saw the Army enter the Golden Temple in Amritsar to weed out Khalistani secessionists. 
One doesn’t recall anniversary of country’s first Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel being celebrated on October 31 in pre-1984 era or even when the non-Congress governments ruled at the Centre in post-1984 era. In the pre-1984, the Nehru-Gandhi family dominated Congress chose to ignore the legacy of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s most formidable rival. In the post-1984 era, the non-Congress governments, including the NDA I, chose not to belittle the role of Indira Gandhi  and continued to observe the day of mourning on Oct 31.
However, the NarendraModi Government has decided tread a different path and has started to ‘celebrate’ Sardar Patel’s legacy on Oct 31 as RashtriyaEktaDiwas. It started soon after NDA II came into power in 2014 and touched a new crescendo this year.
It cannot just be a mere coincidence that such hype is being generated around Patel’s legacy when crucial assembly elections are due in Gujarat in less than two-months’ time and the powerful Patel community has shown signs annoyance with the BJP.
Last year on this day, Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated a digital museum based on Sardar’s life near PragatiMaidan. He had released a stamp to commemorate Patel’s anniversary and launched of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' initiative to recall Patel’s contribution towards national integration.
To celebrate Sardar’s legacy a year earlier in 2015 Run For Unity was launched, where PM had compared the Gujarat Congressman with ancient Indian thinker Chanakya. “After Chanakya, it was Sardar Patel who could stitch a united India,” the Prime Minister had said.
The schedule of events this year celebrating Patel’s legacy was mammoth. In the national Capital, the function began with floral tributes at the Sardar’s statue by Prime Minister, at Sardar Patel Chowk on Parliament Street. Thereafter the Prime  Minister flagging off  Run for Unity from Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, in which about 15,000 students, and people from all walks of life, ex-Servicemen, well-known athletes and NSS volunteers participated. Sports personalities were part of the run.
The route of the run was from National Stadium through  C-Hexagon, India Gate – Shah Jahan Road Radial – India Gate, and cover a distance of 1.5 km. Ministeries of Railways, Culture, Tourism, Information and Broadcasting and Housing and Urban Affairs Ministries were roped in to organise the programme.
Exhibitions on the life and times of Sardar were put up in the Central Park of Connaught Place, and at Rose Garden on Shanti Path in diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. To add to the environment of festivity Shehnais were played. The All India Radio and Doordarshan had special programmes and Ketan Mehta’s film “Sardar” was screened on Doordarshan. New edition of six books on Sardar Patel was released and they will be available as e-books.
In the government itinerary of the day, the morning ritual at Indira Gandhi’s Samadhi Shakti Sthal and prayer meeting at her memorial in the evening did not find a place. The legacy of Indira Gandhi certainly stood dwarfed by the patronage the present government gave to Patel’s heritage.
There is no denying the fact that Patel was one of the best things to happen to the Indian National Movement. As Mahatma Gandhi’s disciple he played a crucial role in converting the Congress from a pleaders’ club to a mass-based political organisation. As true statesman, instead of hankering for top position in the government, played an extra-ordinary role as second-in-command in helming the nascent nation to find its bearings.
In his lifetime, Patel matched Nehru’s charisma with his hardwork. Patel provided leadership to the government and most importantly stregthened his rival Nehru in Prime Minister’s office. He never belittled Nehru, who was much younger in age and experience. He expressed his differences in private and stood with his Prime Minister in public.
Unfortunately more than six-and-half decades after Sardar’s death, his legacy has come to haunt the party he built. The Congress party was not large hearted enough to give Patel’s legacy its due place. The heritage is now sought to be appropriated by the BJP, which is fighting a crucial political battle in Patel’s home state.
Sardar’s community – Patidars, shifted allegiance to non-Congress forces longtime back. They have been steadfast in support to the BJP for the past two decades. They are a powerful community both financially and politically, and who realises this better than Prime Minister NarendraModi. He cannot let a political parvenu like Hardik Patel to run away even with a slice of 15 percent Patidar votes.
Patels for long have remained aggrieved for their ‘Sardar’ being denied the high pedestal similar to Nehru. With NarendraModi seeking to do justice to Patel’s legacy, the Patidars in the run up to the polls would definitely face the proverbial Hamletian dilemma – To be or not to be with the BJP.
(Sidharth Mishra is Editor & CEO,; first published in DB Post, Bhopal)


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