Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday accused the Congress of considering “surname as a political brand” as he waded into the controversy triggered by the Opposition party that launched personal attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Jaitley said the BJP will “gladly accept” the challenge of 2019 general elections if the Congress wants it to be between Modi — the son of lesser-known parents — and someone who is known for his parentage rather than capacity, merit and competence.
In a Facebook post titled ‘What was the name of Sardar Patel’s father’, Jaitley said in a dynastic party like the Congress, talent and merit has no space and the crowd around the family is the cadre.
Jaitley’s post comes against the backdrop of some Congress leaders naming family members of Modi. Jaitley said while the age of the Prime Minister’s mother was made a subject matter of the electoral debate, his father’s anonymity was commented upon as an inadequate credential of the Prime Minister.
“The debate whether India should be a dynastic democracy has been ignited by a self-goal of the Congress Party... The argument given was that if you represent the legacy of a well-known family, it is a political point in your favour. Millions of talented political workers who come from modest family backgrounds would fail by the Congress test of leadership. Merit, talent, ability to inspire and lead would not be a virtue. The Congress considers only a great surname as a political brand,” Jaitley added.
He said even his “well-informed friends” did not have a “definitive answer” when asked to name Mahatma Gandhi’s father, Sardar Patel’s father or his wife.
“The reason for this is simple. Decades of Congress rule, naming colonies, localities, cities, bridges, airports, railway stations, schools, colleges, universities, stadiums after one family was intended to declare the ‘Gandhis’ as India’s royalty. They were ‘officially glamorised’ as the blue-blooded family of India. The others did not matter,” Jaitley said.
Mahatma Gandhi’s father was Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi, while Sardar Patel’s wife’s name was Diwali Ba and father was Jhaverbhai Patel.
He said although Sardar Patel, who was a frontline leader of the freedom movement and was the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, negotiated the transfer of power with the British, the Congress Government rejected the proposal to build his statue at Vijay Chowk in the national Capital.
“The country had to be satisfied with installation of his statue at traffic round-about on Parliament Street,” Jaitley said.
He said the dangers of officially glamourising one family at the cost of those who made a far greater contribution “is dangerous” both for the nation as also for the party to which they belong.
“The contribution of other great stalwarts like Patel and Subhash Chandra Bose is downplayed. Members of one family are projected as larger than life. Their aberrations become national aberrations. The party adopts them as its ideology,” Jaitley added.
He said the silver lining is that country is changing and aspirational India judges parties and leaders very harshly.