NEW DELHI: BJP president Amit Shah kicked-off a four-month-long exercise on Wednesday in an ambitious bid by the saffron party to claim the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi with its leaders across the country undertaking foot marches and addressing public events to mark his 150th birth anniversary.
The Congress, which has seen over the years a gradual appropriation of some of its stalwarts by the BJP, launched a counter-drive with its president Sonia Gandhi taking a swipe at the Modi government, saying the Mahatma would have been pained by what has happened in India over the last few years.
Top BJP leaders - such as Amit Shah, party working president JP Nadda and Union minister Prakash Javadekar - undertook 'padyatra' (foot march), Gandhi's favoured way to reach out to the masses, as part of "Gandhi Sankalp Yatra" as they gave a call to people to follow the ideals of the Father of the Nation.
Shah asked people to follow PM Narendra Modi's call to shun single-use plastic and said he is the only prime minister who has made cleanliness a mass movement, after Gandhi. BJP leaders, MPs, MLAs, organisational leaders and other party members undertook 2-km-long foot march and spoke about non-violence, peace, use of khadi and cleanliness in events held across the country.
In the run up to Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, Modi had given a call to his party to make the day memorable and asked its leaders to organise events and foot marches commemorate the day.
Often accused by the opposition and its critics of paying lip-service to Gandhi's ideals while working against them in its work, the saffron party had made elaborate plans to celebrate the occasion in its bid to present itself as a champion of his legacy.
Facing increasing political marginalisation following another massive poll defeat in the recent Lok Sabha polls, top Congress leaders, including Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, undertook their own foot marches and slammed the BJP.
In the national capital, Sonia Gandhi said those who consider themselves supreme and indulge in the politics of falsehood will not understand Mahatma Gandhi's sacrifices and ideals. In what appeared to be a swipe at the present BJP leadership, Sonia Gandhi told party workers and leaders at Rajghat that the Mahatma's soul would be pained by what has been happening in India in the last few years.
Priyanka Gandhi said in Lucknow that Gandhi stood for the path of truth. "First, the BJP should pursue the path of truth and then talk about Gandhiji," the Congress leader said. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP government headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath convened a special 36-hour special session of the assembly to mark the day.