New Delhi: The Congress plans a public pledge on Jawaharlal Nehru's birth anniversary on November 14 and stoutly denies that it is borrowing the idea from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who administered two public pledges last month on the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The opposition party is taking no chances after PM Modi turned October 31 into a national celebration of Sardar Patel, India's first home minister, to mark his 139th birth anniversary. During the Congress' rule at the Centre, the day was marked primarily as the death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her bodyguards 30 years ago.
This year, no one from the central government visited Shakti Sthal, the memorial to Mrs Gandhi.
Stung, the Congress party is on an overdrive to ensure nothing upstages its plans for the 125th birth anniversary of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It plans to have president Sonia Gandhi administer a pledge "to cherish and value Nehru's vision and ideals of a secular India."
All Congress offices will be illuminated for two days and special programmes are planned.
"In this year-long celebration we plan to recount Nehru's immense contribution to nation building," said former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who heads the Congress committee planning the celebrations.
She emphatically denied that the party is aping Prime Minister Modi, who had administered a Swachh Bharat or Clean India pledge on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and a unity pledge on October 31.
"I want to clear the perception that this is not being done for what has happened on the 31st. We had planned this before," Ms Dikshit said.
Historian Ramchandra Guha alleges that the plan betrays a clear bankruptcy of ideas. "It is very sad and silly. People like Nehru and Patel do not belong to a particular political party. And neither the state, nor any political party should have a monopoly over how to commemorate them," he said.