New Delhi: Keen to resurrect Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy at a trying time for the party and take the message to the masses, the Congress is organising an international conference Nov 17-18 to mark the 125th birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister.
The party, however, has not invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharartiya Janata Party for the event to be held at Vigyan Bhavan here.
Addressing the media here Tuesday, Anand Sharma, Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, said that the conference will discuss Nehru’s view on democracy, inclusion, empowering India and representative global order.
“It will provide a platform to reflect on Nehru’s worldview and legacy in the context of contemporary global challenges of 21st century,” he said.
Sharma, who is the convenor of the organising committee of the conference, said that 55 leaders and international delegates had confirmed their participation. These include former presidents Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), John Kufuor (Ghana), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), former Nepal prime minister Madhav K. Nepal and Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk.
The African National Congress, Communist Party of China, Awami League of Bangladesh, Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Vietnam and UNMO of Malaysia have also confirmed attendance.
While Sharma did not name the political parties from India who had been invited, party sources said several parties including the Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Nationalist Congress Party had been invited.
The conference is being held at a crucial time for the Congress which registered its worst Lok Sabha performance earlier this year winning only 44 seats. The party subsequently lost Haryana and Maharashtra assembly polls.
There is apprehension among Congress leaders that Modi government was intent on downplaying contribution of Nehru while trying to appropriate legacy of some other freedom fighters including Sardar Patel.
Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi were also prime ministers. Congress is now headed by Sonia Gandhi, wife of Rajiv Gandhi.
Sharma accused Modi and BJP of trying to appropriate legacy freedom fighters belonging to the Congress “without subscribing to their values”.
In response to a query, he said that Modi had not been invited to the conference.
“We have not sent invitation to prime minister,” he said, adding Nehru’s legacy was too powerful to be subverted by those who consider themselves larger than life.
While Sonia Gandhi will chair the conference, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi will lead the nine-member Congress delegation.
Congress also appears keen to use the Nehru’s anniversary to script its own electoral revival and has planned events through the year.
Party leaders said that party’s frontal oraganisations including the Youth Congress have drawn up a year long schedule of events and they will be going to each major institution of the country to mark the anniversary with Nehru’s message of inclusiveness.
The party also unveiled a website dedicated to the conference.