The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Munnabhai first, Cong next

New Delhi, Sept. 10: This time, the Congress has got the date right. September 11 — infamous as the day when the world’s biggest terrorist attack took place — this year marks the centenary of Gandhi’s satyagraha in South Africa.

After the fiasco over Vande Mataram, when it was suddenly decided that September 7 was its centenary without any basis for such a conclusion in history to the great embarrassment of the government and the party, Sonia Gandhi called no less than a Congress Working Committee meeting today to reassure the world that the Congress knows its Gandhi.

It was hard to miss really, what with Lage Raho Munnabhai — the film released just ahead of the centenary, perhaps unwittingly — reminding the nation about Gandhi through the great man’s rediscovery by Sanjay Dutt who then became a practitioner of what he called “Gandhigiri”, satyagraha and the works.

And so it was that the CWC, on “this auspicious” occasion, decided to “rededicate itself to the noble ideas of the Father of the Nation”.

A resolution adopted by the CWC said Gandhi’s relevance in the contemporary world was “as great as it was when he led our movement for Independence”. Munnabhai, who sought directions from Gandhi in resolving current issues, would have agreed.

The resolution went on: “The world is seeing the continuing spread of violence and hatred, the sustained propagation of bigotry and discord.”

If the reference to Mumbai and Malegaon was obvious in the mention of “bigotry and discord”, there was another political-cum-personal message for Congress members, especially those in power: “Poverty and inequality are still very much with us. Self-interest holds sway over concern for collective welfare.”

Satyagraha, which means the pursuit of truth, cannot be accomplished — it appears not even its commemoration — in modern India without setting up a committee. Therefore, to translate the “commitment to uphold that precious (Gandhian) legacy in every way”, the Congress plans to set up a committee to chalk out a year-long programme.

Gandhi pretty much decided to do things on his own, not bothering a great deal about committees.

Just as on the 75th anniversary of the Dandi march, which Sonia flagged off with son Rahul in tow, the Congress president, it was said, would take a “deep” interest in the workings of the committee whose members have not yet been appointed.

Sources said the political objective of the CWC’s decision was to blunt the edge of the BJP’s criticism of the Congress for not taking a clear stand on the singing of Vande Mataram. First, the government and the Congress got the centenary date of the song wrong. Then human resource development minister Arjun Singh amended the announcement and said the singing on September 7 was not compulsory.

Today, Janardhan Dwivedi, a Congress general secretary, admitted the Vande Mataram agenda was a mistake. “But the young generation should be told about true history.”

“The young generation” is loving Munnabhai, history true or false.

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