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Rajnath uses Nehru to be a Vajpayee

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 8:51 IST

The praise

  • Home minister Rajnath Singh praised former PM Jawaharlal Nehru on his 126th birth anniversary
  • He said Nehru shouldn\'t be seen through a political mirror, but a national mirror

The significance

  • Coming after the hardline-heavy Bihar campaign, it seems to signify a softening of the BJP discourse
  • Former PM AB Vajpayee also used to praise Nehru, despite him being foremost on the Sangh Parivar\'s hate list

More in the story

  • What Nehru contributed to nation-building, according to Rajnath
  • Did the BJP\'s Margdarshak Mandal\'s criticism have any bearing on his words?

After the resounding defeat in the Bihar election, the BJP's discourse seems to be changing. It was obvious from the Bihar verdict that people had rejected the hardline position taken by the party. That's why party leaders now seem to be trying to come across as more open and liberal.

A major step in that direction came from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who on Saturday praised Jawaharlal Nehru on the first Prime Minister's 126th birth anniversary.

Public praise

At a function to mark the anniversary, Rajnath praised Nehru for shaping the nation, promoting industrialisation, and pushing for agriculture at the same time. He said, "There are many issues on which we have our differences with Nehru. We have differences over his policies, but we can't doubt his intention to work for the welfare of people and nation building.

"I do not see Pandit Nehru through a 'political mirror', as he should always be seen in the 'national mirror'. He took upon himself the tremendous responsibility of steering our newly-born nation when it was liberated from foreign domination.

"He was a visionary leader, who understood that a government based on democratic principles was the need of the hour. Thanks to immense contributions from leaders like Pandit Nehru, India today has a democracy based on universal adult franchise, a sovereign Parliament, independent judiciary and free press.

"Nehruji was one of the tallest world leaders of his time, and it was under his bold leadership, the Non-Aligned Movement was initiated when the world was divided into a bipolar entity. Nehru's policies on economy and science and technology were commendable. He also started the process of launching projects under the Public-Private Partnership, which is more relevant today."

Timing of the speech

Nehru's 125th year celebrations have been on for the last one year. But since Congress's ouster from power, there just hasn't been enough media attention on the events.

Even on Saturday, the focus was more on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Britain, his address and the responses from the hosting nation.

But Rajnath's praise for Nehru is significant, given how important a tool Nehru-bashing has been to the BJP and its followers, especially on social media.

It's also important that the praise comes at a time when many academics, historians and industrialists have expressed their discontent with the role and functioning of the Modi government.

An important face in the government praising one of the top names of the Sangh Parivar's hate list gives one enough reasons to try and read the political message between the lines.

Reading between the lines

Just a few days ago, the veteran Margdarshaks of the BJP, like LK Advani, MM Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, had questioned the party leadership and how the Bihar campaign was handled.

Rajnath's soft line suggests he's trying to be the flexible face among the bevy of hardliners, who would be more open to other ideas and politics.

In doing so, he seems to be trying to emulate former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was less liked by the RSS due to his Nehruvian outlook on some issues.

"The benefit of celebrating the birthdays of those leaders who have a role in the making of India after the independence is that through such events, we get the opportunity to know what they wanted, what was their motive and what kind of nation they wanted to build," Rajnath said.

"Jawaharlal Nehru was one such towering personality. From the depths of my heart, I respect the memories of such a personality."

Political observers say the message Rajnath is trying to send is clear - if you don't like hardline politics, don't turn away from the BJP. A soft, Vajpayee-esque line still exists within the party itself.

First published: 15 November 2015, 10:54 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.