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Having limited Mahatma Gandhi to sanitation, Modi is ignoring his central message

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Future generations in India will identify Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles with toilets. Gandhi was no doubt a champion of sanitation, but he was so much more.

Narendra Modi, an astute practitioner of the politics of symbolism, has made Gandhi’s spectacles a symbol of the Swachh Bharat programme. Meanwhile, efforts have been made to elevate Sardar Patel as a greater icon than Mahatma Gandhi. Sardar Patel is a symbol of national unity, and Mahatma Gandhi of sanitation. Sardar Patel gets the world’s tallest statue, Mahatma Gandhi gets lip service.

Modi has asked BJP MPs to take out a padayatra, a 150-km march, in their constituencies. The march shall begin on 2 October, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, and culminate on 31 October, Sardar Patel’s 144th birth anniversary.

Also read: Gandhi valued sanitation more than Independence. Modi’s Swachh Bharat is fulfilling his dream

As if that was not enough, the main task of this march will not be to spread the message of either Gandhi or Patel, but of Modi. “The idea is to reach out to the public and seek their feedback on the government’s work and their expectations from us,” according to parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi. Other issues likely to be taken up in the march are planting........

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