Special Report

Congress need not be sorry about soft Hindutva

Congress need not be sorry about soft Hindutva

written by Kay Bendict FPJ : After Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s temple hopping in Gujarat and Karnataka and his recent Amarnath yatra, party’s Madhya Pradesh manifesto promised cow sanctuaries, commercial production of “gaumutra” and cow dung, develop Ram Van Gaman Path and laws for conserving sacred rivers etc. Senior party leader C P Joshi went a step further to claim that only a Congress prime minister can build the Ayodhya temple.

Understandably, the Congress has come under attack from a section of Left, liberal and intellectual class for pandering to “Hindutva” and trying to become a BJP clone. Is the criticism justified? Has Congress discarded secularism? Why is it that even as the left-liberal commentators attack the Congress for “betraying” the secular cause, the BJP and even some regional parties are growing nervous over the Congress’ bid to reclaim its lost Hindu support base?

If the Congress has to remain relevant as a political party it ought to tweak its century-old tactics and strategy without fundamentally altering its social-liberal-secular ideology and the Left-of-Centre position. It can remain inclusive and secular even while embracing Hinduism to defang BJP’s militant and corrupted Hindutva. Politics is not as usual since 2014 and the Congress can no longer win elections playing conventional politics.

The BJP had run a successful, but pseudo campaign against Congress’s “Muslim appeasement” that the latter failed to counter. Now, as though a course correction, the Congress is attempting Hindu appeasement. The party need not be apologetic about it as long as it upholds inclusivity, human rights and secular ideals and deal with divisive forces with an iron hand if elected to power.

Some Congressmen are of the view that anti-Congressism of Muslims in the heartland played a role in getting BJP absolute majority in 2014. In 2013 the Congress strategists had identified 180 Lok Sabha seats having 20 to 50 percent Muslim votes across UP, Bihar, WB, Jharkhand, Assam and Maharashtra and miscalculated that after a “divisive” leader like Modi was projected as BJP’s PM candidate, the minority community voters would consolidate behind the Grand Old Party but that did not happen and they rooted for regional parties in many states.

In bi-polar, Hindu majority states like Rajasthan and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the Congress got decimated due to various reasons. And these bi-polar states are now on the verge of becoming triangular with the emergence of new players much to the advantage of BJP. In Chhattisgarh renegade Congressman Ajit Jogi and BSP chief Mayawati have formed a third front that has the potential of derailing Congress’ electoral prospects.

The BSP has also been trying to emerge a third pole in MP with some generous helping from the saffron camp. The AAP has set its eyes on Rajasthan and Haryana among other states. With the emergence of YSR Congress, Andhra has a third pole. None of these parties has the potential emerge a pan-India force in the near future. More and more regional parties are good news for the political behemoth BJP.

In April this year, stung by their desire to bond together, BJP chief Amit Shah likened the Opposition parties to “snakes, mongooses, dogs and cats” struggling to save itself from the deluge unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Six months later, as the Congress upped its Hindu ante and offered tough in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, the PM was forced to prune Shah’s Animal Farm. Addressing a rally in Nizambad Tuesday, Modi said Mayawati (BSP), Mamata (TMC), the Left and Akilesh (SP) are fine….”Congress is the only party which has to be banished from our country forever.” PM’s shrewd political comment praising regional leaders to isolate the Congress may not have the desired effect.

A compliment from him to these parties that depend heavily on Muslim vote is not a politically correct message. The Congress has been trying to convince the Muslims that “undependable” regional parties have time and again played footsie with BJP and Modi’s certificate to them only underlines the possibility of an open door policy post 2019.

As much as the Congress is responsible for catapulting the BJP to power, the left, liberal, intellectual and regional satraps are also equally responsible. They too contributed to the perception war against the “corrupt” Congress by joining the Anna Hazare bandwagon making the ground fertile for BJP take over. However, 2G, supposedly the mother of all scams, turned out to be a dud. The mainstream media is either co-opted or too timid to taken on the establishment. Several senior journalists including some television anchors have become unabashed cheer leaders of cultural nationalism.

Against this background the revisionist Congress tactic of wooing back the Hindus make sound political sense. Rahul Gandhi sent across a message by making as many as 27 temple trips during his Gujarat campaign (80 pc Hindus). And the Congress won 18 seats from these areas. MP has 90 pc Hindus, Rajasthan over 88 pc and Chhattisgarh 87 plus pc. In MP, making a radical change, Swami Namdev Tyagi, popularly known as Computer Baba, and several other religious leaders declared support to the Congress for the assembly elections.”When we can give fifteen years to them (the BJP), then we can surely give five years to Congress,” he told media persons.

A ToI report said CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had a past midnight 90-minute meeting with senior RSS leaders at Sangh headquarters in Bhopal on November 21 apparently “in the backdrop of negative feedback” from as many as 60 constituencies and sought Sangh help to intensify campaign.

Even as it reaches out to the Hindus, the Congress needs to reassure the Muslim community that their interests will not be sacrificed. Intellectuals do not fight elections, but are mostly on the side of winners. If the Congress wins the elections, all its sins will be forgiven. In 11 days the country will know if the Grand Old Party’s Hinduism gambit has worked in the states.

kay Bendict is an independent journalist.


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