Amit Shah’s potshot at Gandhi

Amulya Ganguli

The BJP chief, Amit Shah’s quip about the Mahatma being a chatur bania (wily trader) is not in the same league as Sarojini Naidu’s cheeky description of the Father of the Nation as Mickey Mouse because of his large ears and her dig at him for not knowing how much the Congress had to spend to keep him poor. While Naidu’s was the witticism of a friend, Shah belongs to what can be called the enemy camp which believes that Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse’s intention was good, but his methods were wrong. As the late RSS chief Rajendra Singh (1922-2003) explained, “Usne acche uddeshya ke liye galat method istemal kiya”.
However, even after using a galat method, Godse remains a patriot in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar, as BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj said before his party shut him up for being politically incorrect at a time when the BJP is feeling its way carefully through the cultural labyrinth of Indian society.
Arguably, therefore, Amit Shah’s wisecrack is neither a good-humoured jibe, nor a back-handed compliment to a chatur saint/politician. However, he is not alone in his denigration of the person about whom Einstein said that “generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this, in flesh and blood, walked upon the earth”. Lord Wavell, the last but one British viceroy, characterized Gandhi as an “extremely shrewd, obstinate, domineering, double-tongued, single-minded politician; and there is little true saintliness in him,” while the no longer unknown Indian, Nirad Chaudhuri, described Gandhi as a person who “had the capacity for prevarication of a Hindu bania and a Hindu guru combined”.
Chaudhuri’s aversion towards Gandhi was tinged, however, with reluctant admiration. As he wrote in Thy Hand, Great Anarch, “for the first time in my life I was seeing Gandhi face to face, and the impression was quite unlike anything I had expected. I had seen numberless pictures of him, and was quite prepared to see a man of insignificant frame and plain looks. All that, of course, was there, but unnoticed by me.
“What struck me was the expression on his face, which diverted all attention away from his features or figure. It was one of extraordinary innocence and benignity, with two soft beams streaming out of his eyes … a beatific unworldly look suffused what was basically mere animal innocence. There was not a trace on his face of the repulsive arrogance which disfigures the face of every Hindu holy man. I must say that I looked on spellbound in spite of my dislike for Gandhi’s ideas”.
But these are the observations of neutrals who had nothing to gain from their disparagement of a national figure. However, it isn’t only that the BJP president does not belong to this category, his own past can also deny him the privilege of being an honest critic. The reason is his controversial background which saw him being described as kali dadhi (black beard) by a police official along with a reference to safeddadhi – Narendra Modi? - in connection with the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case.
Moreover, a number of blogs doing the rounds in the cyber world confirms that Rajendra Singh and Sakshi Maharaj were merely articulating the views prevalent in the saffron brotherhood about Gandhi. One of the blogs, entitled Rangeela Gandhi, accuses the Mahatma of sexual escapades while another carries the heading, Gandhism – A deceitful philosophy used by charlatan and frauds.
It says, “One wonders how Mr Gandhi with his pious platitudes and tokenism which seldom gave the concrete solution to any problem, was able to exercise such a popularity among the masses of India to enjoy a god-like status. The puzzle was that how this instant saintly acts crash course was so readily lapped up by the bovine millions to ultimately go to their doom of losing one-third of their country and yet have the audacity of calling it independence”.
While the similarity between the last sentence and the communist slogan of “yeh azadi jhooti hai” in the late 1940s draws attention to the fascism-communism likenesses, what is noteworthy is how the Mahatma continues to rile the saffron camp even seven decades after his death. The reason is that his assassination was a tactical blunder, according to the white saffronite, Koenraad Elst, because if Gandhi had not been killed, he would have been held responsible for partition along with the Congress. In that event, the forces of Hindu nationalism would have gained. In Elst’s view, Godse’s target should have been Jinnah and not Gandhi.
The RSS apparatchik, SS Bhandari, who was the Gujarat governor at the time of the 2002 riots, also said that the outbreak will long be recalled just as the “propaganda related to Gandhi’s assassination went on for 50 years”. Amit Shah drew satisfaction from the Congress’ travails which, he believes, will lead to the fulfillment of Gandhi’s advice for turning the party into a lok sevak sangh. But even if the BJP’s hope of a Congress-mukt (free) Bharat is realized, it will still have to contend with Mr Gandhi’s god-like status in the foreseeable future. (IPA)

Monday, 26 June, 2017