The Congress party will mark the 149th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Tuesday by embarking on a campaign to challenge what it sees as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts at appropriating the legacy of the Father of the Nation.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), its highest decision-making body headed by party president Rahul Gandhi, is also set to recast the contours of its criticism of the Modi government. The meeting will also see the party present a blueprint to revive Congress' cadre base, spread the message of its ideology and of Modi government's failures, and unveil its strategy of collecting donations.
After an internal review found that the controversy over the Rafale fighter jet deal has limited resonance in rural areas, the Congress has decided that it should concentrate on campaigning about people’s issues, particularly price rise, steep increase in fuel prices, agrarian distress and urban unemployment.
That doesn't mean that the Congress criticism of Modi government’s ‘crony capitalism’, of which it says the Rafale deal is an example, will not continue. However, the party leadership could tone down its recent campaign of calling the PM “thief”. This personal attack on Modi was to convince some of the PM’s support base among the youth that their leader had feet of clay, but the feedback from the ground has indicated that its older supporters didn’t appreciate the Congress indulging in such name calling.
The CWC will be meeting at the Mahatma's Sevagram ashram, situated in a village in Maharashtra’s Wardha district. The Congress will also launch its ‘Sevagram Se Sangram’ campaign, drawing parallels between the freedom struggle against the British and its own fight against Modi-led BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Mahatma-led CWC had launched the ‘Quit India Movement’ against the British Raj on July 14, 1942. “The BJP has taken the place of the British Raj,” Surjewala said. The Congress has attempted to draw 10 similarities between the British rule and Modi government.
It says the Modi government has followed in the footsteps of the British by pursuing a policy of ‘divide and rule’ and engineering divisions between religions, regions and caste. If the British looted India’s resources, the Modi government has allowed those who have looted the exchequer to escape, the Congress says. It has likened farmer suicides due to agrarian distress to the forced indigo cultivation during the British rule.
While the Modi government observes 150 years of Gandhi’s birth for the next one year, the Congress says it will showcase the “real Mahatma” to the world who has been reduced to “swacchata”, or cleanliness, by the PM. For the next one year, the Congress will tell people about the Mahatma's fight against untouchability and for temple entry of Dalits in 1932-33, his fights for the rights of farmers in Champaran and industrial workers in Ahmedabad and his lifelong commitment to communal harmony.