The celebrations to mark 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Wednesday will have the Congress, which the father of the nation once led, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which once espoused ‘Gandhian socialism’, contest his legacy.
Interestingly, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which does not lay any direct claim to Gandhian political legacy, will honour him by inaugurating its ‘central school’ for training of its cadres, the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, in the national capital on the day.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to pay his homage to Gandhi and declare the country open defecation-free. He will also launch the campaign against single-use plastic, with the union government organising 'plogging runs' with participants running for two kilometers and collect litter on the way.
BJP chief Amit Shah will flag off his party’s ‘Gandhi sankalp yatra’ from a village on the outskirts of Delhi. BJP leaders, ministers, MPs and legislators will also lead such yatras at several places across the country.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will lead a padyatra from his party’s Delhi unit office to Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat, where party president Sonia Gandhi will administer an oath to workers “to redeem Gandhi, Gandhism and Gandhi's India”. The Congress will hold padyatras across the country, including party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra leading one in Lucknow.
In the national capital, CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury will inaugurate the Surjeet Bhavan, named after former party chief Harkishan Singh Surjeet, with not only saluting a photograph of the late communist leader, but also a photograph of Gandhi. The school, located in the heart of Delhi, has space for training, as well as boarding and lodging of, 100 cadres at a time.
In states, the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh’s Assembly will have a two-day special session beginning Wednesday. The government plans to five social welfare schemes on the day.
In Lucknow, the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh’s Assembly will hold a 36-hour long special session to mark the occasion. The Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress have decided to boycott the session to protest increasing crime in the state.
The session will commence at 11 am on October 2 and continue till the night of October 3 without any break. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav will hold a programme at Mahatma Gandhi statue in Lucknow.
The BJP’s ‘Gandhi sankalp yatras’ will start on Wednesday and culminate on January 30, Gandhi’s martyrdom day. BJP chief Shah had asked party leaders at a meeting to cover at least 2 km on foot on October 2 and make the area plastic-free. Modi had asked the party MPs to undertake a 150 km 'padyatra' during the drive in their own constituencies.
The Congress padyatra will mark the launch of weeklong events to recall Gandhi’s “legacy of non-violence, co-existence, compassion, truth, environmental sustainability and economic self-reliance”.
In a statement, the Congress took potshots at the Sangh Parivar for remembering Gandhi. “Though it took them more than 50 years, some political parties and disparate ideological proponents seem to have realized the importance of Gandhiji,” it said.
The Congress said such efforts should not be criticised as these “amounted to penance” by these political forces. “The question is how much of it is real or posturing? Whether it is misappropriation purely for political benefits or there is a real change of heart, will be seen in future,” it said.
The Congress said the BJP government at the Centre has done everything that is against Gandhian principles, and pointed to increasing incidents of lynching, weakening of institutions, poor state of the economy and India’s farmers.
In Ahmedabad, the PM will head to the Sabarmati Riverfront after paying his homage to Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram, and declare the country open defecation-free in the presence of over an estimated 20,000 village heads.
Other events have been planned across Gujarat, including a visit to Dandi in Navsari district. Around 1,500 people are likely to join the drive to clean Dandi beach, Navsari collector Ardra Agarwal said.