Nothing clever about Amit Shah calling Mahatma Gandhi a 'chatur Baniya'

The BJP president has needlessly run straight into a double-edged sword.

 |  4-minute read |   10-06-2017
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Clever politicians are like aggressive batsmen who launch a pre-meditated assault on the bowlers and don’t allow them to settle down. Clever politicians come up with hard-hitting, even outlandish, statements to confuse the opposition and woo the voters in a different manner.

A classic recent example is of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Diwali-Ramzan remark during the crucial elections for Uttar Pradesh Assembly earlier this year. With this game-changer of a remark, which went a long way in polarising voters, Modi gave a demo to the opposition on how to dictate the poll agenda without getting a stick from the Election Commission.

After all, he had merely stated that if people get ample electricity during Ramzan they should get it during Diwali too!

Now we know in retrospect how Modi’s clever remark touched the heart strings of the majority of Hindu voters, though the Muslim voters too weren’t offended.

Amit Shah too is a clever politician, though arguably not of the same calibre as Modi who hand-picked him for the post of president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But Shah needs to be chided by Modi for making a needless remark calling Mahatma Gandhi a “chatur (clever) Baniya” who used the Congress party as a special purpose vehicle to secure independence!

Shah even claimed that the Father of the Nation advocated dissolution of the Congress party right after Independence.

Shah has nothing going right for him if one views the disparaging remark per se - its timing, context and even the relevance. Unlike Modi, who made his Diwali-Ramzan remark in the early stages of the UP poll campaign, Shah made this remark in Chhattisgarh where the Assembly polls are due only late next year.

In fact, no elections are happening anywhere in the country and the earliest election which is due is in Gujarat in December this year, the home state of Mahatma Gandhi where Shah’s remark will inevitably trigger a negative reaction. 

bapu-embed_061017081242.jpgThe remark will inevitably trigger a negative reaction in Gujarat. Photo: Reuters

By using the word “Baniya” for the Mahatma, Shah has run straight into a double-edged sword. One, he has unnecessarily played a caste card without any possible electoral gains as no elections are round the corner. Two, he has painted the Baniya community in a bad light and projected them as wily schemers. That too when the Baniyas have been traditional votebanks for the BJP.

Shah’s real target in his Gandhi remark was the Congress. Here too he has goofed up badly.

He has not only unnecessarily given a stick to the Congress to beat the BJP with, but has also provided an issue directly connected with people’s sentiments to the Congress and opposition parties which have been looking for such opportunities.

Needless to say, the Congress, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress immediately grabbed this opportunity and launched a counter attack on Shah and the BJP. The Congress gave it back to Shah and said the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were the “special purpose vehicles” of the British colonialists to partition India.

A few things remain to be seen irrespective of what Shah achieved by making his “chatur Baniya” remark. Is it the personal opinion of Shah or is it the considered view of the BJP also? Was PM Modi aware that Shah would be making this remark? Now that the remark has been made, will PM Modi intervene with some sort of a clarification? One will have to wait and watch.

However, Shah’s verbal missile only goes to show that if there is any Indian leader, past or present, who is above political satire and ridicule is perhaps only Bhimrao Ambedkar, not even the Father of the Nation.

PM Modi needs to personally intervene and take Shah to task for his intemperate remark. After all, Shah’s “chatur Baniya” remark is as useless and unproductive as Bill Clinton’s cruise missile attacks on the alleged top leadership of the al-Qaida in 1998 on Khost (Afghanistan) and Sudan were! 

Also read: An open letter to Mahatma Gandhi

Writer

Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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