Gandhi for the world and Godse for India? Modi's critics ask the question
Why not greet G20 leaders with cries of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and take them to Godse’s memorial instead of Gandhi’s, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi asked in Brussels
“Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha for international audience while Savarkar and Godse are for the Indian audience,” was the buzz among PM Narendra Modi's critics on Sunday, 10 September, as photographs and videos of G20 leaders being greeted at Raj Ghat by the prime minister began circulating.
After inaugurating the new Parliament building, the prime minister "in the course of 15 minutes, revered Gandhi and then Savarkar, one a martyr and the other accused of assassinating him".
Days ago in Brussels, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had asserted that India was witnessing a conflict between the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassin Nathuram Godse. Why not greet G20 leaders with the cry of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and take them to Godse’s memorial instead of Gandhi’s, he queried.
Whenever Narendra Modi is abroad, in London, Tokyo or Washington DC, he pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi standing before his bust; but when union minister Giriraj Singh hails Godse as a "patriot" and as a "worthy son of India", the prime minister does not even protest.
The opportunism of the PM is well known by now. While addressing the American Congress on India’s secularism and pluralism, Modi borrowed the visionary words and diction of his bête noire, Pandit Nehru, while at home his party and the Sangh parivar are hellbent on obliterating Nehru from public memory.
Critics also mocked the PM for his lack of concern for Manipur or Myanmar while leading discussions at the summit on Ukraine. A Supreme Court advocate posted on Sunday, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is great. However, before making the world one family, remember that in recent weeks a widow was thrown out of a temple during arti, a tribal was urinated upon & panchayats called for the boycott of an entire community. Can we strive for ‘Bharataiva Kutumbakam’ first?”
The critics shared photographs of G20 leaders visiting Humayun’s Tomb and the Qutb Minar besides several other monuments in Delhi while mocking that even BJP’s IT Cell has to eventually fall back on Mahatma Gandhi and the Mughals.
They recalled how the BJP and PM Modi went out of their way to ensure a seat in Parliament for Pragya Singh Thakur, who had abused Mahatma Gandhi and extolled Godse. Though PM Modi had famously said in 2019 that he would not be able to forgive Pragya Singh Thakur, and that the party’s disciplinary committee would take suitable action, nothing apparently was done.
The past few years have witnessed adulatory films being released on Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin. RSS-affiliated supporters wave Godse’s photographs in Ram Navami processions and pose for photographs while shooting at portraits of Gandhi. Atal Behari Vajpayee's BJP government had unveiled a photograph of Savarkar in the Parliament building, while the new Parliament building was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Savarkar.
Narendra Modi also conducted a polarising election campaign in Karnataka supporting the Bajrang Dal. But despite cow vigilantes backed by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP lynching cattle traders, while abroad, he has always insisted that his government was ‘steadfastly secular’, prompting CPM leader Sitaram Yechury to say, "Modi worships Gandhi abroad and Godse at home."
Indeed, for a brief while, the BJP had described its ideology as ‘Gandhian Socialism’, inviting the view that there was nothing Gandhian or socialist in its ideology. When it finally dropped the tag, nobody protested. Clearly, nobody in the BJP had taken it seriously.
Economist and public intellectual Prabhat Patnaik explained the complete lack of seriousness behind Modi’s public utterances in the following words in an interview to The Telegraph last month:
“The sole objective of these utterances is grandstanding, making a grand impression at the moment by saying whatever would achieve this, and forgetting it the next moment when there is a new audience with new sensibilities.”