In its second Union budget, the Narendra Modi-led government seems to have left no stones unturned in wooing the people of India, be it the call for women empowerment through "Nari tu Narayani" or the promise to elevate India out of its water crisis by 2024 under "Har Ghar Pani". While these promises were somewhat within the ambit o expectations, many were bowled over by an unexpected addition to the Budget 2019: Gandhipedia.
In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government was working on a "Gandhipedia", a repository of information about the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi. The repository would be accessible to all and will serve the purpose of educating and sensitising the youth about Gandhi.
Sitharam further added that by Oct 2, the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, that by Oct 2, 2020, every city will be ODF (Open-defecation free).
#Budget2019: "Gandhipedia to be developed to spread positive Gandhian values," says @nsitharaman. #BudgetWithNews18 #NirmalaSitharaman Follow for live updates:https://t.co/VPkaa8o9Ib pic.twitter.com/ybOHqM3IaW— News18.com (@news18dotcom) July 5, 2019
The minister also said that a "Swachchata Kendra" will be built at Raj Ghat.
The announcements seem to come as part of the BJP's Mahatma Gandhi outreach, which had already been in the works ever since the 2018 Budget allocated Rs 150 cr to celebrate Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary year. Just on Thursday, BJP president Amit Shah said in Ahmedabad that party workers would take out 'padyatras' across the country to spread the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi as part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the Father of the Nation.
Shah, also the Union home minister, said an official announcement about the initiative will be made by the party in coming days.
The effort to push for a symbolic connection to Gandhi was not missed by netizens, many of whom referred to it as "appropriation" of Gandhi by the saffron party.
One of the strongest criticisms came from Congress Party's Karnataka unit's Twitter handle which called the move hypocritic in light of BJP's Madhya Pradesh MP Pragya Thakur's comments against Gandhi.
Height of Hypocrisy!@nsitharaman says that Gandhipedia is being developed to make society aware of Gandhian values, we have @BJP4India MP Sadhvipragya denouncing Gandhian values & endorsing Godse.Does the FM has the RSS backing for this or is this just an other announcement?— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) July 5, 2019
A ‘Gandhipedia’ being developed to sensitise youth about positive Gandhian values, says Sitharaman, keeping up with the BJP’s attempts to appropriate Gandhi. #Budget2019— Ruhi Tewari (@RuhiTewari) July 5, 2019
There is a "Gandhipedia". There is such a thing. Beyond this, I do not know what.— Deepak Shenoy (@deepakshenoy) July 5, 2019
This is not the first time that "Gandhipedia" has been mentioned by the BJP government. In fact, the portal was announced back in September last year prior to the beginning of the two-years-long birthday celebrations on Gandhi's 150 birth year.
Recently, BJP's newly elected Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya Thakur drew national ire after she tagged Gandhi an "antinational" and and lauded his assassin Nathuram Godse. The comment, coming as it did during the Model Code of Conduct prior to the polls, earned Pragya a "maun vrat" and she was even reprimanded by PM Modi himself.