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Why Congress chose Sevagram?

Arti Ghargi




 As the ‘Quit India’ movement began from Sevagram, there couldn’t have been a more fitting place to hold the CWC meeting than this.


Since 2014, Narendra Modi has made one thing very clear- Congress does not have a monopoly over two historic figures pivotal for India’s independence: Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Be it invoking Mahatma Gandhi for Swachha Bharat Abhiyaan or the tallest statue of Sardar Patel. The push for claiming these two historic leaders has been so aggressive that it has left the Congress-the grand old party of the country flummoxed. The Jawaharlal Nehru vs Sardar Patel debate has already created fire. On the other hand, Prime minister Narendra Modi doesn’t miss even a single opportunity to invoke Mahatma Gandhi against Congress. In February this year, replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha Prime Minister Narendra Modi unleashed a tirade against the Congress.  Reasserting his dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat, PM Modi said that BJP was only following Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of ‘Congress Mukt’ Bharat.


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However, as the nation is just three months away from stepping into the next election year, Congress- the oldest party in India is planning to reclaim Gandhi from BJP and from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has time and again cornered Prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP accusing them of hate politics. He has also invoked the principles of love and acceptance by Mahatma Gandhi to address the public. After a respectable show of Congress in Gujarat Assembly Election, Rahul Gandhi invoked Mahatma Gandhi and said that Gujaratis upheld the message of love given by the Mahatma and defeated the anger, abuse, and lies. “In three months Gujaratis gave me a lot of love. They taught me to respond to lies, threats, abuse, money and muscle power with love and brotherhood. Gujaratis have taught Modi that his anger will be defeated with love. This was also the message of Gandhiji,” he said. Even at the Congress plenary session this year, Rahul Gandhi vowed to bring back the Congress of Gandhi-Nehru’s time.

Mahatma Gandhi

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The 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was thus a golden opportunity both the parties did not want to miss. While BJP planned nation-wide celebrations including PM Modi’s trademark ‘Swachha Bharat Abhiyan’ drive on a grand scale, Congress, on the other hand, tried to claim the aspect of simplicity from Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. By holding the Congress Working Committee meeting at Sevagram Congress took one step further in reclaiming Gandhi from the BJP. However, we must first know why Sevagram is so significant when it comes to remembering Mahatma Gandhi.

Sevagram and Mahatma Gandhi:

Situated in Maharashtra’s Wardha, Sevagram Ashram was not only a significant part of Mahatma Gandhi’s life but also continues to reverberate the essence of his ideologies. The story of how Mahatma Gandhi set up Sevagram Ashram and spent considerable years of his life is also interesting.

It was around 1930 that Mahatma Gandhi started a padyatra from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi for Salt Satyagraha.  He decided not to return to Sabarmati till India attained full Independence. During the Dandi March, he was imprisoned for more than two years. Upon his release, he decided to travel throughout India to create awareness in masses about the independence movement gaining ground in the country. Once, he decided to stop at a village in Central India and make it his headquarter. That is how the conception of Sevagram came into being for the first time.


Bapu Kuti at Sevagram

Mahatma Gandhi came to Wardha in 1934, following the invitation of his follower and prominent industrialist Jamnalal Bajaj. He stayed in Jamnalal Bajaj’s bungalow ‘Bajajwadi’ and also in the prayer room of Mahila Ashram for some time. At the crack of the dawn on April 30, 1936, Gandhiji declared that Sevagram (which was then known as Shegaon) would be his new home.

The newly renamed Sevagram lacked many basic infrastructural facilities including post office or telegraph. The letters used to be brought from Wardha. In 1940, he, therefore, decided to rename Shegaon as Sevagram, which literally means ‘Village of service’. Mahatma Gandhi’s mere presence transformed the place from a small village to a source of inspiration to millions. Many decisions on important national matters and movements were taken at Sevagram. It became the central place for a number of institutions for nation building activities devised by Gandhiji to suit the inherent strength of this country.


Mahatma Gandhi meeting visitors at Sevagram

In spite of many practical difficulties, Gandhiji decided to settle here. Though initially, he had thought of staying alone along with Kasturba Gandhi, the pressure of work necessitated more colleagues and soon Sevagram Ashram became a full-fledged institution. Mahatma Gandhi set up his ashram on the outskirts of the village which has a population of around 1,000. The 300-acres of land for the ashram was made available by Jamnalal Bajaj. Small hut-like accommodations built in the ashram for the followers and visitors were same as the one of Gandhiji’s.

He spent his time spinning, writing, meeting visitors from across the country and abroad in this cottages. It is said that he spent as many as six years of his lives in this ashram with his devotees. The defining movement of India’s freedom struggle against the British, “Quit India” movement too was born at Sevagram. What later turned out to be India’s coup de grace was adopted at the Congress Working Committee meeting in Wardha. The CWC accepted Mahatma Gandhi’s proposal to launch the Quit India movement.



CWC meet at Wardha in 1942


Why Congress chose Sevagram?

As the ‘Quit India’ movement began from Sevagram, the place also resonated with India’s independence struggle, up to some level. Thus, there couldn’t have been a more fitting place to hold the CWC meeting than this. The Congress has often equated the BJP rule with that of the British rule and held it responsible for the atmosphere of corruption, fear, intolerance, and violence in the country. The CWC resolution has drawn parallels between the Indian freedom struggle and said a “new freedom struggle is the need of the hour”. It even took a dig at Modi government saying that appropriation of Mahatma Gandhi may be expedient for the BJP for their electoral gains, however, it is important to imbibe his values and ideologies.


Congress CWC meet at Sevagram today

To counter BJP, the Congress instead of opting for grand celebrations, went with the simple theme. As the Sevagram Ashram represents the simplicity of life advocated by Mahatma Gandhi in every way, it was the perfect venue for Congress. To give a more strong message, the Congress leaders including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh even washed their own plates.

Sevagram holds significance for another crucial historical event. It was at the Laxminarayan Temple in Wardha where the Dalits were first allowed to worship. Since Congress launched its offensive against the Modi govt, Rahul Gandhi has upheld Dalit atrocities and accused the government of apathy towards the community.

Will Congress be able to culminate another ‘Quit India’ like movement against Modi government? Only time will tell whether the Sevagram CWC meet will turn the fortunes in favour of Congress.


Is Modi government playing with fire with the Savarna Reservation?

Arti Ghargi



We have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster.


On Monday, the Modi cabinet raised the heat amidst the ongoing winter session of parliament by clearing 10% reservation for the economically weaker upper castes. The cabinet decided to amend the Constitution so that the “economically backward” upper castes will get 10% reservation in direct recruitment in government services and admission to higher educational institutions.

The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. Among the major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, several trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other Upper Castes.

As the news took over the TV screens and print columns, it was projected as a “Master Stroke” by the Modi government. Some even called it a “Surgical Strike” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Considering the Savarna backlash that the government received over the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (amendment) act, this might have been a last-ditch attempt by the ruling BJP to save its Upper Caste voters. Incidentally, the upper caste Hindus are its core vote banks. Thus, this move was being seen as vote bank motivated.

The question, however, remains whether it is actually effective or ground? Whether it will pay the electoral dividends the party is hoping for? Will the move achieve consolidation of both, Dalit and Savarna voters in favour of BJP?

BJP may hope the answer is in affirmative. But a quick scanning of pages of India’s political history can easily tell that it is otherwise. On the contrary, we have seen a number of examples in the past where political leaders tried to meddle with the reservation policies which resulted in nothing but the electoral disaster in the immediate elections.

Karpoori Thakur:

Karpoori Thakur was the first political leader to have felt the heat on the ballot box due to his decisions regarding the reservation policies. The socialist leader who was Bihar’s first non-Congress Chief minister first introduced the reservation for the economically backward upper castes in the country. His decision was based on the findings of the Mungeri Lal Commission. This commission had suggested a total 26% reservation in the state, of which 20% were for the OBC, 3% for the women of any background and 3% reservation for the poor Savarnas.

Karpoori Thakur decided to implement the reservation formula in Bihar in November 1978. However, he decided to divide the OBC category into two other sub-categories for the distribution of quotas, i.e. Extreme Backward Class (EBC) and Backward Class (BC). While EBC were allotted 12% quota, BC was allotted 8%.

Electorally, it proved to be disastrous for the leader. He had to endure major upper caste backlash for this move. Within a week, he had to vacate the CM chair. The reservation policy he introduced is popularly known as “Karpoori Thakur Formula”. The policy was halted in 1992-93 until the Supreme Court quashed it. However, with the Modi government’s new reservation card, the demand for implementing the formula in government jobs and educational opportunities has started gaining pace in Bihar.


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VP Singh:

Who can forget the political debacle VP Singh brought upon himself by announcing the implementation of Mandal commission report. Not only the country burned for months following violent protests but the controversial move proved to be a fatal blow to VP Singh’s political career.

In August 1990, seven years after the Mandal Commission report on the identification of OBC’s based on 11 parameters, VP Singh in his independence day address declared his intention of implementing the commission’s suggestions. The report proposed OBCs to be given 27% reservation making the total number of reservation go up to 49%.

This move sparked a series of student protest. The Self-immolation committed by more than 50 students across the country and suicide attempts by more than 100 people marked the end of the VP Singh’s minority government. Just 11 months after he took oath as the Prime Minister, VP Singh had to step down and was succeeded by Chandra Shekhar.


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Bhupinder Huda:

Having witnessed the fire sparked by the controversial reservation policies, Congress (UPA) for most of its term kept the reservation off its priority. Until 2014, when it made a last-ditch attempt to win the election, touched the reservation issue.

On the face of elections, Congress proposed to include Jats in Other Backward Class category. The Jat reservation only resulted in violent protests and hartals in the state. The Supreme Court eventually rejected it. The Congress, as we know, was reduced to only 1 seat.

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Prithviraj Chavan:

The Congress-NCP coalition government in the state of Maharashtra too followed the suite off Haryana government. The Prithviraj Chavan-led coalition government announced 16% reservation for the Marathas who have been demanding reservation since long. The move did not prove much fruitful as the coalition had to face dismal numbers in the immediate assembly election.

Image Source: Web

These and many other cases in the past prove that any decision with regards to the reservation is equal to playing with fire. Thus, it begs a question whether the Modi government has learnt the time and again tested lesson provided by Indian Politics. With the recent decision, it seems it hasn’t or perhaps, it has chosen to ignore it.

Will it turn out to be political suicide for Modi government as well? Or will he be successful in breaking the jinx?

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Don’t need Congress, SP-BSP strong enough to defeat BJP in UP: Kiranmoy Nanda





Kolkata | Samajwadi Party (SP) national vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda on Sunday said his party, together with the BSP, is strong enough to defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming general election and there is no need of an “insignificant” force like the Congress to make it happen.

He, however, hinted that the SP-BSP alliance might just leave aside the Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies, represented in the Lok Sabha by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi respectively.

“In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is an insignificant force, so we are not even thinking of including or excluding it. The SP-BSP alliance is the main force which will take on the BJP. The Congress might be there in one or two seats, it is for the Congress to decide what position it wishes to see itself in,” Nanda told PTI in an interview.

His comments came two days after Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav moved closer to finalise a seat-sharing formula, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Both the leaders held a meeting in New Delhi on Friday.

Nanda felt the Congress was yet to adjust to the mantra of “alliance politics” as it was unwilling to “leave even an inch to its allies in states where it is strong, but expects others to share their pound of flesh with it in states where it is a weak force”.

Asked whether keeping the Congress out of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh would be an advantage for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said, “From our past experiences, we can say, in cases where the Congress had fielded candidates against the SP-BSP alliance, we did not face any problem in defeating the BJP. The Congress’s vote share is completely insignificant.

“Rather there have been instances where the Congress had not put up its candidate in a seat and the BJP got its vote share.”

Nanda cited the examples of the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls, where the Congress had fielded candidates against the SP-BSP nominees, but that did not deter the alliance from defeating the BJP.

Referring to the recently-held Assembly polls in five states, he said had the Congress worked out an alliance in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP would have faced a complete ouster in the two states.

“Did the Congress go for a pre-poll alliance with the SP-BSP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan? The answer is no. The Congress’s policy is it will take benefits from everybody, but when it gets an opportunity, it does not want to share it with others,” Nanda said.

The former fisheries minister of West Bengal during the Left Front regime asserted that the SP-BSP alliance would be a “gamechanger” in the general election in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

“Going by the current situation, it is clear that the SP-BSP alliance will sweep Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP will be ousted. The SP will play a vital role in the next government formation at the Centre, but we are not in the prime ministerial race,” he maintained.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP, along with its allies, had secured 73 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, whereas the SP had won five and the Congress just two seats.

Nanda also refuted the claims that Shivpal Singh Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) might play a spoilsport for the SP-BSP alliance in the Hindi heartland state.

“New parties crop up prior to the Lok Sabha polls in politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh, but they fail to create any impact,” he asserted.

Talking about the choice of prime ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance, Nanda said the matter would be decided on the basis of consensus after the polls.

“We are not averse to anyone for the prime minister’s post but that issue will be decided after the polls, following a discussion with all the parties,” he added.

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Is “Pliable” offensive because Rahul Gandhi said it?

Arti Ghargi




As the entire hullabaloo surrounding “Pliable” continues, a quick search on Google will tell you what the word means.


Many of our journalists on ever-buzzing Indian Twitter are outraging over the word “Pliable”. For those who are completely unaware of how this fairly innocuous-seeming word offended many of my colleagues, let me give you a brief background.

It was on Thursday that Congress President Rahul Gandhi during a press conference sought to take a swipe at Prime Minister Modi’s interview with ANI editor Smita Prakash as being “staged” and lampooning the interviewer as “Pliable”. His remarks were followed by a prompt rebuttal by the ANI chief calling it a “Cheap Shot” and “downright absurd”. “Not expected of a president of the oldest political party in the country,” she tweeted. Many journalists and even politicians (read BJP leaders) came out in her support and slammed Rahul Gandhi for his comments.

“The Grandson of the ‘Emergency dictator’ displays his real DNA – attacks and intimidates an independent Editor,” tweeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Adding a question on the silence of “pseudo-liberals” (Wait. The Irony just died). On the other hand, many others disagreed and saw nothing wrong with Rahul Gandhi’s comment. As the debate around “Pliable” heated, the IT cells of both parties aided their respective sides by releasing interview videos of Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi- which is supposed to be a commentary on how certain journalists suck up to the rival parties and what “Pliable” journalism looks like.

As the entire hullabaloo surrounding “Pliable” continues, a quick search on Google will tell you what the word means. According to Google, Pliable means easily bent; flexible or easily influenced. The Cambridge dictionary elaborates a little more- (often disapproving) A pliable person is easily influenced and controlled by other people. Now, going by the literal meaning of the word, it is hardly offensive. But as what’s offensive or what’s not is subjective, let us consider for a moment that it was indeed offensive to some. But the subjective cannot be selective.

Was it a standalone incident where politicians indulged in name calling? Hell No! Many journalists on regular basis are subjected to uncivilized criticism just for doing their job. The range of cuss words used to discredit journalists and their work is innumerable. Not to mention the few which you would see in very often which degrade the standard of public discourse. I am sure many of us have been called “Presstitute, Dalal, Baazaru” and what not. And while Mr Jaitley is busy pointing fingers at Rahul Gandhi. Here is how his own cabinet colleague described the journalists as:

 Not to forget the Modi interview to Smita Prakash in which he terms some journalists as “News Traders”.

Now, after the furore, Editors Guild and other journalistic bodies stepped in and condemned Rahul Gandhi for “words” used by him to criticise the ANI chief. Though it wasn’t a standalone case of politicians name-calling journalists, in this particular case the guild stepped in. The promptness is definitely noteworthy.

In the next few lines, the guild raises the question on the objectionable language used by senior BJP leaders and AAP leaders to criticise the journalists and media at large in the past. This condemnation in retrospect hardly seems genuine and comes across as an effort to escape the whataboutery. The guild says that journalists aren’t immune to the civil criticism. Going by this statement, Pliable is more civil than “Presstitute”, “Dalal” or “Baazaru”.

So what was the outrage for? Was it really because of the use of word Pliable? If it is so, why the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy calling journalists “News Traders” doesn’t incite such response? Or was the outrage because it was Rahul Gandhi who said it. Which then means two things: either the fraternity thinks they do not merit criticism from Rahul Gandhi (or any politician, for that matter) or Rahul Gandhi is too civil in his conduct that we as journalists don’t expect him to use such words. The standard for judging Rahul Gandhi is higher than it is for his contemporaries.

In my opinion, politicians should be the last ones criticizing the journalists. But should they be barred from criticizing the media completely? Not at all. But if we are to condemn them for their comments the ground should be the same for every politician.

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