Skip to main content

Starring Narendra Modi, in and as Gandhi: How a certain TV channel attempted to appropriate a great legacy

By Darshan Desai*
[Gandhi] spins every day for 1 hr. beginning usually at 4. All members of his ashram must spin. He and his followers encourage everyone to spin. Even M. B-W was encouraged to lay [aside] her camera to spin. . . . When I remarked that both photography and spinning were handicrafts, they told me seriously, “The greater of the 2 is spinning.” Spinning is raised to the heights almost of a religion with Gandhi and his followers. The spinning wheel is sort of an Ikon to them. Spinning is a cure all, and is spoken of in terms of the highest poetry...
These are the type-written notes that accompanied legendary photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White’s eternal picture of Mahatma Gandhi on his spinning wheel (mimicked now by Narendra Modi) that she sent to the LIFE magazine in 1946. Her few words speak of the depth of a journalist who could capture the soul of the Mahatma and his ideology in just one shot.
Cut to 2017. Two poor journalists on a self-fashioned Times Now debate were trying hard to position their defence of the pitchforking of Narendra Modi in place of Mahatma Gandhi on the calendar and diary of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission.
Here is what they did: They showed old calenders and diaries of previous years when Gandhi’s picture on the wheel was removed and replaced by images of colourful khadi threads or a plain diary cover. They wanted the Congress to respond to the fact that Gandhi was removed from the calendar and dairy in their time.
The a la Arnab Goswami stress on the word removed sounded as though saying ‘the BJP has only replaced Gandhi with Modi, you people removed him.’ Nobody bothered to listen that no political leader had ever put his picture there. (Perhaps, according to them, the nation doesn’t want to know this.)
Symbolising the times that we live in now, the Times Now journalists brought themselves to a Facebook-like debate, sorry tete-e-tete, saying Modi has become a brand ambassador of khadi, he has made khadi a fashion statement, khadi sales have gone up dramatically because of him, so what’s the big deal if his picture is put there. They demanded a convincing rejoinder to this, stopping short of Arnab’s signature “the nation wants to know”.
At another level, when pointed out that Gandhi, khadi and the charkha were the symbols of non-violence and Modi was just the opposite of it, the anchors started screaming “what about 1984, what about Bhagalpur riots”. They sounded as nauseating as the BJP saying exactly this in the thick of the bloody 2002 massacre in Gujarat under Modi.
Margaret Bourke-White would perhaps have been pained that two kids had brought down to gutter the journalism she took to lofty levels when covering Gandhi. But the larger saner media in India does not bother for they will not allow a certain TV channel to appropriate their legacy.
Well, the point here is not how much illiterate about Gandhi were the two journalists for they were only trying to toe a tutored line. It is another matter that they badly need a tuition from Arnab on how to do this without so crudely exposing themselves.
The point here is the BJP’s argument which the journalists furthered about how khadi sales have jacked up with Modi emerging as its brand ambassador and created a fashion statement with his half-sleeve kurtas. It is as crude as comparing Amitabh Bachchan promoting Gujarat with his khushboo Gujarat ki campaign and emerging as its brand ambassador; and so if tourism develops in the State his picture should be put up prominently on all tourism material.
By the way, the Modi kurta is not hand spun unlike the khadi of Gandhi and those who know the spirit of this know the difference. Expecting those two journalists and the minions of Modi to understand this would be putting too much burden on the poor souls.
A part of this argument is also that Modi has done more than anyone else to promote khadi. Times Now says “what’s the big deal” and BJP says “what’s wrong (he has a right to replace Gandhi)”. It is like saying Virat Kohli is the in-thing and so Mahendra Singh Dhoni should go.
By the same argument, Times Now and the bhaktas may well say someday that Modi has transformed entire India, in fact the woman anchor stopped short of saying this when she referred to Make in India, and so it is no big deal if Gandhi’s statues are replaced with those of Modi and all MG Roads in the country become NaMo Roads. The BJP will say what’s wrong, he has a right.
In the cacophony of all this, there are only a few to tell our burgeoning young population that khadi was not a sheer product nor was the spinning wheel a mundane machine. They were the eternal symbols of India’s ethos that Gandhi singularly represented, of the uncanny unity of the varied people of this country in the middle of mindboggling diversity.
They were a way of life. Gandhi told us how: “Spin and spin after due deliberation… ‘Due deliberation’ means realization that charkha or act of spinning is the symbol of non-violence. Ponder; it will be self-evident.”
Last but not the least, the original inventor and promoter of khadi never called Margaret Bourke-White to put together his portfolio for a modeling career. Modi’s picture on the KVIC material is posed for. No big deal, indeed, he has a portfolio of his own.
---
Editor, Development News Network, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.