The rise of polarised politics across theworld has created a need to redefine the narratives in history and revive/invent new icons. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi is the most popular Indian icon at a global level. It continues to be so as his political philosophy has resonated with the world leaders of the 20th century in their respective political circumstances. After the fall of the Congress-led UPA, the BJP gradually side-lined Gandhi and initiated the celebration of alternative icons like Savarkar,Vallabhai Patel, etc in India. The name ‘Gandhi’ is seen as synonymous with the Congress’ leadership throughout the history of the modern Indian state. The ideological differences coupled with the political rivalry resulted in the decline of a positive Gandhian presence in the discourses of the country during BJP’s regime. While the leaders and official spokespersons of the BJP are often (although sometimes not) subtle in their criticism, the social media handles of the right ceaselessly indulge in deconstructing/destructing the established mahatma ‘image’ of Gandhi.
To counter the ruling BJP, the regional parties across India are trying to fill the void in the role of a strong opposition created by the decline, if not demise, of the Congress party. These rulingregional parties in different Indian states are established with distinct narratives and icons which have a strong regional appeal butmight not have a larger nationwide appeal.While the opposition is trying to come to a consensus for a new coalition upholding the spirit of the Indian constitution, Ambedkar emerges as the common icon across diverse Indian states. The opposition comprising the left, Bahujan, and other regional parties unequivocally embrace the philosophy of Ambedkar alongside leaders like Phule andPeriyar.Gandhi has never enjoyed a good reputation in anti-caste discourses and the counter-BJP coalition is gradually moving towards joining hands on the platform of Ambedkar. Though the image of Ambedkar has always been alongside Gandhi and Nehru, the fall of Congress and the simultaneousmobilization of Dalits and backward communities made Ambedkar’s icon take up the center stage.
In such circumstances, the question of Gandhi’s relevance comes into being. Though he is still promoted on international platforms like the UN, is it just tokenistic? Will he only be a 20th-century phenomenon? Have the critique of Gandhi’s personality and revisions of Indian history really exposed the overlooked side of Gandhi? As Gandhi’s imagery fades, the contemporary Indian political scene is increasingly lookinglike a conflicted space between Savarkar and Ambedkar.Where can we situate Gandhi in the current political spectrum?Without glorifying or nullifying, Gandhi’s role must be re-evaluated without any preconceived orpolar stances. His political career, like any other politician, might be grey. It might reinstate the M in his name as Mohandas instead of Mahatma. As it is popularly noted, ‘A text without a context becomes a pretext’, selective evaluation of Gandhi might only serve the purposes of the person/party reading his life or ideas.As we remember Gandhi on the day of his assassination, there should be more questions and discussions to understand whether he is overrated or misunderstood or something in between.