Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Congress’ Nehru show a low key affair
New Delhi: The Indian National Congress (INC) has made its own bid to celebrate the 125th anniversary of India’s first prime minister and pre-eminent Congress leader in his time, Jawaharlal Nehru, with a two-day international seminar held at the spacious Vigyan Bhavan on Monday. It was in many senses a low key affair.
In her inaugural address, Congress president Sonia Gandhi harped on secularism as an article of faith, and it was a veiled reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its politics which Congress deems to be anti-secular or communal. In an emotional voice she pronounced Nehru to be the “greatest India to have ever lived”. She also said that Nehru was no doctrinaire socialist, and that he was a great believer in individual rights. In his opening remarks, Congress’ deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, who is the effective organiser of the event, described Nehru as a great intellectual and scholar.
The international invitees who spoke on the first day included Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai, former Ghanaian prime minister John Fukuoro, Bhutan’s Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, former Nepal prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Arab League secretary Amre Moussa, and each one of them recalled what Nehru meant for them and their countries.
Karzai pronounced, ““His spirit must be happy to see a great strong, developed India,” which must have embarrassed those who wanted to emphasise Nehru’s socialism more than anything else. Bhutan’s Queen Mother recalled that Nehru visited her country in 1958 when he was 69 and braved the tough trek to the isolated Himalayan kingdom and he was the first international dignitary to do so. She said that it was Nehru who convinced the third king of Bhutan to open up the country, and following Nehru’s example, Bhutan had initiated its first five-year plan in 1961. Fukuoro said that Ghana was inspired by the example of India and Nehru. “Many Africans looked to Nehru’s India for what was politically possible,” he said. Moussa recalled the period of Nehru, Sukarno (the first president of Indonesia), Nasser (president of Egypt) and Kwame Nkrumah (president of Ghana), who founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). He warned that “the world was on the verge of trouble” across Asia because of terrorism.
Sonia Gandhi who had chaired the session announced that Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, would speak at the concluding plenary on Wednesday, and the party workers in the hall burst into a loud ovation. She said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo would also be speaking.
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