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Nehru meet: Sonia slams saffron forces
Cong president warns against attempt to distort former PM’s legacy
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 17
Several, if not all, non-NDA political representatives in attendance, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today used the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru to send a series of political messages, including a subtle warning to the BJP-RSS combine against “misrepresentation” of India’s first Prime Minister’s life and work.

Recalling Nehru’s vision of secularism and democracy and the fact that he chose this vision when he could have chosen any other, Sonia said: “Nehru once said wealth shouts but knowledge whispers. The whisper of knowledge about Nehru’s life and work has weakened in recent years drowned out by misrepresentation and distortion. Yet the ideas he promoted remain all the more relevant.” She used Nehru’s legacy of secularism to remind the BJP that “secularism is for India a compelling necessity”.

Sonia’s opening remarks for the two-day global conference, being organised by the Congress to commemorate Nehru, set the tone for discussions which seek to underscore Nehru’s relevance and that of the Congress through him.

Global leaders, including Afghanistan former President Hamid Karzai, Ghana ex-President John Kuorof, Bhutan Queen Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Nepal former Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, who attended the inaugural ceremony, described Nehru as a “towering personality”, with Karzai saying Nehru was next only to Gandhi.

The remark drew instant applause from the gathering at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is building India’s first Home Minister Sardar Patel up as Nehru’s parallel.

Sonia’s speech was significant for many reasons, including the fact that she used it to speak her mind to Modi. Also, as leaders of some non-NDA parties — Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Prakash Karat (CPM), D Raja (CPI), Ajit Singh (RLD) and DP Tripathi (NCP) — listened, she made a strong political statement intended not only to reinvigorate Congress ranks with memories of Nehru, the nation builder, but also to remind the non-BJP camp of the indispensability of Nehruvian legacy.

Her attempts to place the Congress at the head of a non-BJP coalition looked feeble though as many of the “secular” parties invited for today’s event stayed away, including the NC, BSP, SP, DMK and AIADMK. The BJP and allies had been consciously uninvited.

On Nehru’s democratic values, Sonia was addressing the saffron constituency when she said: “India’s democracy which we take for granted today was Nehru’s greatest achievement… He rejected ideologies of coercion that gave primacy to economic development over human rights.” The statement echoed Congress’ thought on Modi’s alleged aversion to dissent.

Sonia read out to her saffron opponents Nehru’s thoughts on secularism. “Nehru was prescient about the consequences of allowing religion into politics… He once warned that if any person raises his hand to strike down another on the ground of religion, I shall fight him to the last breath of my life as the head of government and from outside.”

Even for her cadres undermined from recent electoral reverses and upbeat BJP leaders, Sonia had a message in the form of a borrowed Nehru quote: “In a democracy we have to know how to win and how to lose with grace. Those who win should not allow this to go to their heads; those who lose should not feel dejected.”

What world leaders said

"I became closer to Nehru when I got an academic introduction to him. One English language book I read had an essay by him. Later I read ‘Discovery of India’ in which he told remarkable tales of people chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ where ever he went to campaign"

Hamid Karzai, Afghan ex-president

"Nehru helped Bhutan out of its self-imposed isolation. He made two remarkable gestures of friendship towards us —invited the third King as the Chief Guest to the R-Day function in 1954 and undertook an arduous journey to Bhutan as a 69-year-old"

Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Bhutan queen





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