Are Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel icons of Election 2014? The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are citing Gandhi more often than even the Congress. The grand old party is therefore forced to resort to its time worn weapon of terming the BJP's idealogue, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as "killers of Gandhi" because his assassin, Nathuram Godse, was an RSS member at some point.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi lost no time when he accused the BJP and the RSS of being anti-Gandhi and two days later asked the Opposition to read about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel before building his statue. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad has said Rahul's allegations against the RSS were a diversionary tactic in an election in which development, price rise, corruption, security and unemployment are "core" issues.
On Tuesday, Rahul took on BJP's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on the latter's turf, comparing him to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler but without naming him,
"There are two kinds of leaders. The first type like Gandhiji belongs to those who go among people, have some ideology and believe in the knowledge of people... Then there is another kind of leader, whose best example is perhaps Hitler. Hitler thought there was no need to go to people. He believed entire knowledge of the world is only in his mind," said Rahul.
Within hours, the BJP retaliated to Rahul's jibe by asking the Gandhi scion how much he knew about Patel, and why Patel and Azad were not conferred the Bharat Ratna by the Nehru-Indira Gandhi regime. The two leaders were given Bharat Ratnas when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister, Prasad said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The BJP, which had promptly reacted to Rahul's charges against the RSS by petitioning the Election Commission to de-recognise Congress, has now released excerpts from Gandhi's grandson Rajmohan Gandhi's biography of Patel, who is quoted as telling Nehru that the RSS was not involved in the assassination.
Incidentally, Rajmohan, who will contest the East Delhi seat for AAP, had on Monday likened AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal's zeal to fight against corruption to Indians' struggle to win freedom from British rule under Gandhiji.
Not just Rajmohan and AAP, but Modi too has been incessantly referring to the father of the nation in his speeches. Modi, whose allegiance to Gandhi also stems from their common Gujarati origins, has at times taken on the Congress' by calling its leaders "nakli Gandhis" and at times to cite the Mahatma as an icon. While addressing a gathering of India Inc recently in the capital, Modi referred to Gandhi repeatedly and even recalled how, sitting beside a Sabarmati in full flow, he did not like to waste even half a glass of water.
It is ironical that more than 60 years after his death, the father of the nation remains an inspiring figure to parties occupying different segments of the political spectrum, equally good for 'socialist and secular' Congress, right-wing majoritarian BJP and the populist AAP. But the politicians appropriating Gandhi has irked the Mahatma's great grandson. Srikrishna Kulkarni has written to Rahul, appealing the Congress to stop the "charade".
On the other hand, Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, has become a favourite villain in political hyperbole. Last week, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said had Goebbels been reborn, he would have joined the AAP, referring to Kejriwal's strategy on his alleged detention in Gujarat. Jaitley's diatribe came a day after clashes broke out between BJP and AAP workers.
Earlier, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had described Modi as a follower of Hitler and Goebbels. The JD(U) leader, who had parted ways with the BJP over Modi's anoinment as BJP's chief of election committee last year, was miffed over Modi calling Bihar a "safe haven for terrorists".
Goebbels' analogy in political rhetoric is not new. About a year ago, a Congress leader had said that Goebbels' soul seemed to have entered into the Gujarat chief minister; the Congress leader said that over what he described as Modi's unparliamentary language against the UPA government.