NEW DELHI: Fresh from a bruising battle for one Rajya Sabha seat — a high-strung episode that may well become part of political folklore — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had a subtler face-off in the Lok Sabha while commemorating the Quit India movement, making 2017 look much further than the 75 years India has passed since historic year of 1942.
If Modi sought to turn Gandhiji’s Quit India clarion call of ‘karega ye marenge’ (do or die) to ‘karenge aur kar ke rehenge (we can and will do)’, conveying his determination to stay the course till 2022; Congress president used the occasion to wonder whether ‘forces of darkness’ were trying to destroy the roots of democracy — the hard-earned liberty, equality and fraternity.
With her political secretary Ahmed Patel’s win giving her party a much-needed booster shot, Sonia Gandhi took a jab at the Government: “We must not forget that some organisations opposed the Quit India movement. Such organisations have no role in the freedom struggle.” Though oblique that the reference was to the RSS and the BJP was all too obvious.
She went on to remind the British atrocities faced by the ordinary Congress workers, men and women, during the Quit India movement. Also how Jawaharlal Nehru had to spend years in jail for fighting for freedom. The Prime Minister had omitted any mention of Nehru, while he sought to remember the Quit India movement as the final “jan-sangharsh’’ in run up to 1947.
“Today we don’t have Gandhi or the kind of leadership of that time, But 125 crore people of today’s India have the belief that if we work together, we can realise the dreams of the freedom fighters,’’ Modi said. But Sonia Gandhi questioned, whether that freedom itself, earned 75 years ago, is at stake —“clouds of the politics of division and hate are hovering over the plural and egalitarian values enshrined in the Constitution,’’ she said. It “seemed that secular, democratic and liberal values are being endangered — public space for debate and differences of opinion shrinking,’’ she added.
Prime Minister who heard Sonia Gandhi with rapt attention, countered with a story for future. “In 1942, the need of the hour was to free India from colonialism.
Today, 75 years later the challenges are different. Let us pledge to free India from poverty, dirt, corruption, terrorism, casteism, communalism and create a ‘New India’ of our dreams by 2022.” Modi message was lofty and clear, he’s in no hurry to budge anytime before 2022.
In case, the Congress was getting ideas after wrenching a one-seat victory in Gujarat, it may think twice and harder. Meanwhile, back in Gujarat, Congress cracked the whip expelling eight rebel MLAs from the party for a period of six years for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections.