Modi’s Rs 135 crore joke on Mahatma Gandhi

If he wants to pay tribute, he knows what's to be done

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Ashish Mehta | June 14, 2010



Think of all possible ways to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi. Your list is not likely to include a big-budget, grandiose ‘temple’ that will also be a sort of club for industrialists. And that’s what is coming up in the capital of Gujarat. But, then, this is none other than chief minister Narendra Modi’s way of paying tribute to Gandhi.

The 34-acre project is going to cost Rs 135 crore. Going by the designs and models, it has the worst of postmodern architecture, with fanciful bridges and land-scapping and what not. For visitors, there’s even a food court. There’s a convention centre, which will host the Vibrant Gujarat investors’ meet next year (in which investors like Nirma will come up with projects which will invite protests from Gandhians while the state government and its lawyers will do everything non-Gandhian). As an afterthought, the place has a Gandhi museum. Modi has a fine sense of humour but at Rs 135 crore, this is a bit costly joke on the Mahatma.

Gandhians of Gujarat have protested. Chunibhai Vaidya, Ilaben Pathak, Prakash N Shah and Sudarshan Iyengar wrote to the chief minister in April, pointing out that the Mahatma’s name was put to an “improper use”. Chunikaka, along with the rest, has stated: “Such a grandiose memorial is in contradiction with Gandhi’s philosophy. If this project is meant to honour Gandhi’s legacy, it is actually an insult of the Gandhian philosophy.” More importantly: “ Till the state’s ruling party and its leadership does not state where it stands with reference to the ideology that created the atmosphere for Gandhi’s assassination and justified it, there was, is and will remain the possibility that they are doing this to camouflage their role (in killing the Mahatma). Moreover, when the accusation of state-sponsored violence (in 2002) still stands, obviously this government does not have the moral authority to build the Mahatma Mandir.”

It’s not just Gandhians. When L K Advani on his blog praised Narendrabhai’s plans, even his followers wrote back to say that grandiosity was the last thing you could associate with Gandhiji.

If Modi wants to pay a grand tribute to the apostle of peace and nonviolence, the kind of tribute that the world will remember for a long time, if he truly wants to do that, he knows what he must do. If that is too difficult for him, then he should let Gandhi be.

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