Congress makes U-Turn on Hindutva

Congress makes U-Turn on Hindutva

There was a time once, during the Congress-led UPA regime, when politicians used to celebrate Eid with great fanfare.

There was a time once, during the Congress-led UPA regime, when politicians used to celebrate Eid with great fanfare. Iftaars used to be organised at the houses of the senior leaders, where devout Muslims used to break their fast after the sunset. Lavish feasts used to be organised by the so-called secular leaders that included politicians from the Congress, JD (U), RJD and other parties. It was a golden opportunity for the scribes to interact with senior leaders, where even the President and the Vice-President used to grace the occasion. In fact, even they used to hold these Iftars.

Gone are those days. Instead, now politicians, including leaders from the so-called secular parties, compete with one another in performing pujas at temples. There is no dearth of such occasions now when it comes to posing for Hindu festivities. Throughout the year, one is busy celebrating one festival after another, whether it is Makar Sankranti, Holi, Janmashtami, Navratri, Dussehra, Diwali etc. Ironically, earlier, the BJP leadership used to be busy organising such festivals, but ever since the Congress and other secular parties have taken over, they are quiet.

It’s a Faustian barter, where the Congress has left its ideals for the greater cause of garnering Hindu votes. The Congress is, in principle, following the adage of “If you cannot beat them, join them.” Suddenly, the cacophony of criticism against the BJP leadership on its Hindutva agenda is not heard any more, as the baiters have themselves turned Hindu followers.

The very fact that Priyanka Gandhi starts her campaign by performing extensive puja on the banks of the River Narmada in Madhya Pradesh reveals the new-found love for the Hindu gods and goddesses. If one would recall, Rahul Gandhi had also flaunted his Brahmin credentials during the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017, when he was listed as non-Hindu during his visit to the Somnath Temple.

The Congress has finally realised that appeasing the minorities would not lead them anywhere, as the Muslims vote gets divided, unlike the Hindus, who vote in bulk for the BJP. Interestingly, the minorities have no complaints against the Congress, as they, too, realise that this is a part of the larger strategy to win elections.

In the Assembly polls to the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Congress is not shying away from playing the Hindu card. Whether it is the construction of Gaushalas, chanting of Hindu Mantras or holding Navaratri Pujas with much fanfare, the Congress leaders are pulling out all stops to defeat the BJP in the elections. The Congress Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministerial candidate, Kamal Nath, leads his colleagues from other States in claiming himself as the true Hanuman Bakht. He has been organising several religious events like Sunderkand, Bhagvad Katha, Bhagavad-Gita and Hanuman Chalisa Paath, perhaps to please Gods and surely to get applause from the majority community.

Similar is the case with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who are visiting temples, not just to impress the Hindu gods & goddesses, but also their followers, who form majority in these States.

Interestingly, in the past, all these Hindu Chief Ministers had been religiously conducting pujas within the four walls of their houses, but due to their rout in successive elections, they have learnt the lessons from the BJP. If their political rivals can do it and fetch more votes, why can’t they imitate them and become victorious? The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) became wiser much before wisdom dawned on the Congress, to imbibe the politics of convenience from the BJP. The masterstroke of Kejriwal in asking Prime Minister Modi to carry the images of deities Lakshmi and Ganesh on the currency notes left the BJP dumbfounded.

During his 4,000- km Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi visited almost all the temples to spread the message of unity among the people. He has already declared that he is a Janeu-Dhari Hindu (who wears Brahminical thread). However, he also visited a few Muslim shrines like Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi and Hazratbal in Kashmir, though the emphasis was on projecting himself as a Hindu devout.

By imbibing the game plan of the BJP, which won a thumping victory in 1998, rising from 2 seats in 1984 to 182 seats, the Congress has at last strategically shifted its policy from appeasing the Muslims to impressing the Hindus. If that was not enough, it has gone a step ahead to play caste politics, thus killing two birds with one stone. The Congress strategy of playing the OBC card goes much beyond the Hindutva agenda of the BJP and the Mandal Card of the secular parties.

An over-confident Congress is campaigning vigorously in all the four States, busy exposing the BJP on its failure to include OBCs in the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam that was passed recently in the Special Session of Parliament.

The change of strategy by the Congress is expected to be a turning point in India’s polity. While earlier, the two principal parties, the Congress and the BJP, contested on secular and communal agenda respectively, but now by changing its tack, the Congress finds itself on the same page as the BJP. The difference between the two parties has blurred for the time-being, but the voters do comprehend the compulsion of vote bank politics.

The BJP has no love lost for the Muslims, though the Congress would never come forward to harm the interests of the minorities to please the Hindus. The fact that both are wooing the Hindus cannot be denied by anyone. While the BJP has no new agenda to impress upon the Hindus, as the Ram Mandir issue, Abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and Triple Talaaq have already been implemented, the Congress has come up afresh with its Hindu and OBC plank.

Much will depend on the election results of the four States. If the Congress gamble pays off, they are bound to repeat the same trend in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, slated for early next year. The BJP, on the other hand, tried to play the Nationalist Card, by replacing India with Bharat at the G20 Summit, though the decision met with lukewarm response, as it sounded impractical. In the run-up to the General Election, one would wait for the BJP’s master stroke in exposing the U-turn of the Congress in following their footsteps on Hindutva.

(The writer is Delhi-based senior journalist and

political commentator.

Views are personal)

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