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BJP, Oppn battle to claim Gandhi's legacy on his 150th birth anniversary

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(Eds: Combining related stories) New Delhi, Oct 2 (PTI) The BJP and the Opposition battled to claim Gandhi's legacy on his 150th birth anniversary as ruling party chief Amit Shah launched a nation-wide exercise to propagate his ideals while Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had a dig at it, saying the Mahatma's soul would have been pained by what has been happening in India under the present dispensation. Shah, who has been at the centre of his party's elaborate plans for a four-month drive on Gandhi, kicked off the 'Gandhi Sankalp Yatra' with an address, followed by a march in the national capital as other senior leaders undertook similar programmes across the country. Narendra Modi is the first prime minister who has made cleanliness a mass movement as Gandhi did, he said, asking people to shun single-use plastic. The Congress, which has seen over the years a gradual appropriation of some of its stalwarts by the BJP, launched a counter-drive and projected the saffron party as an unworthy champion of the ideals of the father of the nation. Paying homage to the Mahatma at Rajghat, Sonia Gandhi said those indulging in falsehood cannot understand Bapu's ideals, claiming the Congress was the only party that followed the path shown by him and carried on his legacy. Her son and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi led a march of party workers from the Delhi Congress office to Rajghat while his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attended a programme in Lucknow. In the national capital, top BJP leaders, including its working president J P Nadda and Union minister Rajnath Singh, besides Shah, led processions and extolled on Gandhi's ideals of non-violence, cleanliness, self-reliance and use of khadi among others. Though he has been savage in his criticism of the Congress for its alleged neglect of Gandhi's ideals by promoting dynasty and corruption, Shah refrained from attacking the opposition party on Wednesday. The BJP had asked its 3,229 MPs, MLAs, other elected representatives and office-bearers to undertake 'pad yatra' (foot march) for 15 days. In the run up to Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, Modi had given a call to his party to make the day memorable and asked its leaders to organise events to commemorate the day. Often accused by the opposition and its critics of paying lip-service to Gandhi's ideals while working against them, the saffron party made elaborate plans to celebrate the occasion in its bid to present itself as a champion of his legacy. Facing increasing political marginalisation after another massive defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress leaders undertook their own foot marches and slammed the BJP. Sonia Gandhi attacked the Modi government for seeking to appropriate the Mahatma's legacy. No matter what they might claim, only the Congress has followed Bapu's path and provided jobs, education and facilities to farmers, accomplishments which are unparalleled, she said. "How can those who pursue the politics of falsehood understand that Gandhiji was the worshipper of truth? How can those who can do anything for power understand that Gandhiji was a worshipper of non-violence? "How can those thirsty for power understand the meaning of Gandhiji's Swaraj? Those who claim to be supreme at the first opportunity, how can they understand the value of selfless service of Gandhiji?" she asked while attacking those in power. In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav lashed out at the BJP, saying those who never walked on Mahatma Gandhi's path of truth, non-violence and social harmony are now celebrating his 150th birth anniversary. Participating in his party's programme at GPO park, he said this is a ploy of the saffron party's politics to hide its wrong deeds. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said Gandhi had visited a 'shakha' of the Hindutva organisation during the time of Partition, interacted with swayamsevaks (volunteers) and expressed joy over their discipline and the absence of divisive feelings over caste and creed among them. PTI KR SKC VIT JTR KR ABH ABH

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