New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah called Mahatma Gandhi a “chatur baniya” while addressing an event in Chhattisgarh on Friday. “Bahut chatur baniya tha woh, usko maloom tha aage kya hone waala hai (He was a very clever baniya, he knew what was going to happen),” Shah was quoted as saying. Shah said Gandhi knew the weakness of the Congress party and thus suggested its dissolution after the country gained independence.
Shah was speaking to a group of “eminent persons” on the second day of his three-day visit to the state.
He also went on to claim that Congress was never a party based on principles and was a “special purpose vehicle” to gain independence.
“Congress kisi ek vichaar dhaara ke adhaar par, kisi ek siddhant ke adhaar par bani hui party hi nahi hai, woh azadi prapt karne ka ek special purpose vehicle hai, azadi prapt karne ka ek saadhan tha. Aur isi liye Mahatma Gandhi ne durandesi ke saath, bahut chatur baniya tha woh, usko maloom tha aage kya hone waala hai, usne azadi ke baad turant kaha tha, Congress ko bikher dena chahiye. Mahatma Gandhi ne nahi kiya, lekin ab kuch log usko bikherne ka kaam samapt kar rahe hain. (The Congress is not a party based on one ideology or one principle, it is a special purpose vehicle to gain independence…this is why Mahatma Gandhi with foresight, he was a very clever baniya, he knew what was going to happen, he said immediately after independence that the Congress should be dissolved,” the Indian Express quoted him as saying.
On the other hand, he hailed the BJP’s ‘clarity of thought’.
“Jo deshdrohi naare lagayega, woh deshdrohi kehlayega (If anybody raises anti-India slogans then in our sight he is an anti-national).” “We are clear about it,” he said.
Shah’s remarks drew immediate political criticism. “Modi reduced Mahatma Gandhi to his glases in Swachh Bharat, his party president now reduces him to a Bania”, said Nagendar Sharma of the Aam Aadmi Party, adding, ‘Every day in 30th Jan now,” a reference to the day Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.
Modi reduced Mahatma Gandhi to his glasses in Swachh Bharat, his party President now reduces him to a Baniya. Every day is 30th Jan now
— Nagendar Sharma (@sharmanagendar) June 10, 2017
Gopal Krishna Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and a former governor of West Bengal told PTI that the Mahatma had laughed at cartoons of himself. “He would have laughed at this one also but for its utter tastelessness and the hidden mischief in it.”
Another grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi also criticised Shah:
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 10, 2017
Though the phrase ‘wily Bania’ was used during Gandhi’s lifetime, including by C.R. Das, it was almost invariably invoked by his critics. Writing in 2010, the journalist Swapan Dasgupta, currently a Rajya Sabha MP nominated by the ruling BJP government, noted:
Rubbishing the Mahatma has become an unofficial national pastime. Militant Hindus charge him with betraying Hindu interests and facilitating Partition; Muslim separatists always perceived him as a wily Bania;
Maulana Shaukat Ali used the phrase ‘wily Bania’ during his address to the jury in his 1921 sedition trial in Karachi, but more to ridicule those who use it:
“Others say Shaukat Ali and Mahomed Ali are very simple and straightforward, it is the wily Bania of Ahmedabad, it is he who has won over these Mussalmans and he is going to ruin them and the Mussalmans.”
No inner democracy in Congress
In his Chhattisgarh remarks, Shah also said that only two parties out of the 1650 political organisations in India – the BJP and CPI(M) –have inner democracy.
He said that it was clear that if Congress president Sonia Gandhi stepped away, Rahul Gandhi would take over as Congress president but nobody could predict who the next BJP president would be.
According to the Indian Express, Shah also applauded the Raman Singh government for bringing Chhattisgarh out from the ‘BIMARU’ group. He also said that a fourth term for the BJP in the state was imminent.
Shah is on a three-day visit to the state to strengthen his party before the assembly elections, slated for late 2018.