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Interview With Renuka Chowdhury

Interview With Renuka Chowdhury

The political row over BJP President Amit Shah’s latest remarks about Mahatma Gandhi continues.  The Congress and other opposition parties have demanded an apology from him for insulting the Father of the Nation.

Shah made the reference to the mercantile caste to which Gandhi was born and said how the “bahut chatur baniya” (very shrewd baniya) had rightly advised dissolution of the Congress after Independence. Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala demanded an apology from Shah, BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He described Shah a “trader of power” and added that his remarks were “an insult to freedom fighters, their sacrifices and also to Gandhi.” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee deplored his comments saying these were “uncalled for and unethical”, while CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy demanded that Shah tender an apology for making the “derogatory” remarks.  

Speaking to Anju Grover for Indian Currents, Congress leader and  Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh Renuka Chowdhury refuted Shah’s remarks and said that Shah should not have insulted Gandhiji. Chowdhury who was a Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the UPA government (Jan 2006 to May 2009), criticized the central government over the launch of a new booklet by its Ministry of Ayush that advises pregnant woman to shun sex, non-veg food and indulge in pious practices.

IC: BJP chief Amit Shah dubbed Mahatma Gandhi as a “bahut chatur baniya”, a reference to his mercantile caste. Your comments.

Renuka Chowdhury:  His remarks are nothing but an insult to the ‘Father of the Nation’. It is like an insult of elders in the family. How much Amit Shah knows about Gandhi and his contribution to the freedom struggle? You cannot change the history. The great historians have spoken about the great contribution. Just because Gandhi was from Gujarat did not mean that Shah would say anything about him. It was unfair on his part to talk about Gandhi like that.

IC: Why do you think he was unfair to Gandhi as he identified him by his caste? Gandhi had fought against the caste system throughout his life.

It shows lack of sensitivity and it hurts sentiments of the people for whom Mahatma Gandhi is a father figure…Father of the Nation. How much does Shah know about Gandhi?

IC: But the fact of the matter is that caste plays an important role in India?

I agree caste plays a role but he (Shah) has reduced Gandhi to his caste whereas Gandhi’s contribution to India, its freedom struggle and the world is much more than what Shah knows about him.

IC: Shah also said that Gandhi was prophetic enough to predict future of the Congress and suggested dismantling the party after India got the independence. Shah had also said the Congress was not rooted in any ideology or principles and was sort of a “special purpose vehicle” to secure freedom. Your views.

It is an old party which has significantly contributed in building the nation. The party has worked hard. Ever since, the BJP led NDA government has come to power, the economic and industrial growth have gone down. The demonetization has badly hit the farming sector and common man. Farmers are facing severe crisis. They have not handled Kashmir issue properly as a result of which the Kashmir situation has gone out of their hand. As far as Congress is concerned, it cannot be written off. The party has been working for the welfare of the people.

IC:  How do you react to the Ministry of Ayush’s latest guidelines for pregnant women, suggesting them to not eat non-veg etc.? You were the minister of state of Women and Child development ministry in the UPA government. What do you have to say on it?

These guidelines are anti-women because these will encourage in-laws of would be mothers to avoid them giving nutrition. As it is, maternal mortality rate is quite high in our country and such suggestions will work against women. The centre is trying to impose its own idea of the way of life on the people. The ministry should withdraw such guidelines. These guidelines are politically motivated as this government wants to turn the entire country into vegetarianism. The cow vigilante groups want to create troubles for those who do not toe their line. While on one hand, the BJP talks about beef issue and on the other hand, the ministry issues such guidelines.

(Published on 19th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 25)