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Analysis

Updated on: Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 09:58 AM IST

FPJ-Edit: Not clever wordplay but subtle argument when Rahul Gandhi justifies difference between 'satyagrahi' and 'satta-grahi'

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | Photo Credit: PTI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | Photo Credit: PTI

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Rahul Gandhi's persistent attempts to explain to the masses the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva is a serious political project that may have significant impact on the national discourse in the coming months and years. The Congress leader is not saying anything new; the intelligentsia has articulated this distinction for decades but the RSS-BJP succeeded in convincing the ordinary people that they were the sole protectors of Hindu interests. A strong Congress ignored the propaganda but a weakened Congress can choose not to deal with this false perception at its own peril. Even those sections of society which are deeply dissatisfied with the BJP's governance tend to support the party because of religious sentiment. It is doubtless an anathema in a secular, progressive democracy that religion plays a critical role in politics.

Political scientists have written about Hindutva being a political project based on Hindu supremacy and hate against other religions. The RSS ideologues too have emphasized that Hindutva was different from Hinduism. The content and philosophy of Hindutva make the political code for the citizen and the nation, absolutely delinked from the religion. Majoritarianism isn't about religion; it is politics. The Congress and other secular par- ties suffered immensely because the BJP tried to exploit Hindu religious sentiment to create a political support- base, going to the extent of portraying others as pro-Muslim. Though nothing is more farcical than condemning all the parties as pro-Muslim, the RSS pulled this off after decades of hard work and created a popular perception that supporting the BJP is standing for the Hindu cause.

The Congress rarely demonstrated the intellectual preparation and political guts to confront the RSS-BJP on this sensitive issue, fearing certain defeat in any wrestling bout on their turf. This reluctance inflicted heavy political damages on the party, giving the BJP a free run in painting them as pro-Muslim. Rahul Gandhi has finally taken up the cudgels to challenge this falsehood. Though explaining the nuances to the masses is not going to be easy, particularly because the BJP will hit back ruthlessly, Rahul was left with no option other than taking the bull by the horns. An antagonistic media is bound to deride the Congress, dismissing Rahul's arguments as irrelevant semantic warfare. The Congress will have to execute this plan seriously, going beyond Rahul's occasional outburst if they don't want this to become fresh raw material for BJP propaganda.

It is not merely a clever wordplay when Rahul tries to distinguish between “satyagrahi” and “satta-grahi”, it is a subtle argument to tell the nation that the BJP is using religion only to grab power. The Congress will require a battery of trained spokespersons to carry this message forward. Both the younger leaders and the veterans will have to deploy their intellectual resources if the Congress intends to win this debate. Rahul's reference to the distinction between Gandhi and Godse is a powerful metaphor that will hurt the RSS-BJP. After all, Mahatma Gandhi was a devout Hindu whom the hardcore Hindutva couldn't tolerate. VD Savarkar, the proponent of Hindutva, was one of the accused in the Gandhi assassination case. He was let off for want of sufficient evidence. Rahul is also stressing on the values of truth, compassion and sacrifice that the Hindu religion is known for while the Sangh Parivar was using Hindus as pawn to establish its political dominance.

It is dangerous for any modern nation-state to accept politics based on religious or racial supremacy. History is replete with examples of human and political catastrophe when such a project succeeds in any country. A matured democracy like India cannot allow religion to dictate her politics. When a citizen goes to the polling booth to caste his or her vote, he or she is not a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Sikh. He is the citizen of a secular democracy who will decide his choices on the basis of political philosophy, not by primordial identities like caste or region. India's Constitution doesn't permit politics based on religion. The Election Commission should strictly enforce this code, no matter how political parties indulge in this perversity through deception and subterfuge. It is also the responsibility of every political party to restrict their activities within the framework of the constitutional scheme. If all the political parties shun politics of hate and division, and stick to the constitutional mandate of religious equality, India will be- come a better place to live. After all, politics of racial and religious supremacy hasn't made any nation great.

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Published on: Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 09:58 AM IST
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