Many political pundits think that Rahul Gandhi is caught between the devil and the deep sea on the question of Hindutva. If he opposes it, he is cursed, and if he does not, he is doomed. Now, in a bold move, he has launched a fierce attack on Hindutva. Addressing a session of Congress workers in Maharashtra, he tried to differentiate between Hinduism and Hinduism, saying, “Why do Hindus need Hinduism when they follow Hinduism? Is beating a Sikh or a Muslim a Hindu religion? No. But Hinduism is Is it Hinduism to kill Akhlaq?
This statement needs to be understood in a broader political context. In the last seven years, the BJP and the RSS, through their propaganda, have successfully blurred the lines between Hindutva and Hindutva so that they are perceived as practically interchangeable, and attacking or criticizing Hindutva means criticizing Hinduism.
Rahul Gandhi not only differentiates, he defines Hinduism in terms of violence. Which is rather bold. He said, “I have read the Upanishads and nowhere is it written to kill a human being. But I can see it in Hinduism. Our direction has come from Shiva, Kabir, Guru Nanak to Bapu.” Rahul asks a simple question, “If you are a Hindu, why do you need Hinduism? Why do you need this new name?”
Clearly, the BJP and the ruling group were rapidly moving towards a split. The BJP then retaliated by saying that Rahul was attacking Hinduism. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Rahul has a pathological hatred towards Hindus.”
Why did Rahul choose to attack Hindutva and what would be the political reaction of his political diatribe? The current political ecosystem needs to be understood in order to understand the skepticism of some political analysts and even within the Congress about Rahul’s move.
Since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, Hinduism has become a hegemonic ideology that seeks to remove the left-liberal ideological base of the Indian political system. Hindutva, once considered socially backward and backward, has become a reflection and carrier of influential political discourse and has been used as a weapon to destroy political opponents and silence their voices in the conspiratorial support of the mainstream media. Dissenting democratic space has shrunk and it has become fashionable to be Hindutvaist. A narrative has been created that criticizing Hindutva would be politically suicidal and that it would be to take full advantage of the RSS and its own field.
Therefore, it was assumed that instead of attacking Hindutva, the opposition should adopt developmental and policy issues to corner the Modi government. It was also understood that being seen as a Hindutvaist could pay more political dividends. And so, the leaders who seemed to be close or fraternal with the Muslim leaders suddenly changed gears. Opposition leaders rushed to prove who the big Hindus were. Rahul Gandhi was walking around the temple, Arvind Kejriwal was reciting Hanuman Chalisa and Mamata Banerjee announced that she was a Brahmin woman who had recited Chandi.
It was tagged as political opportunism and they were all criticized for following soft Hinduism. But it does help to neutralize the BJP’s vicious campaign to portray these parties as pro-Muslim leaders. It was in this context that opposition leaders found it difficult to oppose the repeal of Section 370 and the criminalization of three divorces. The riots in north-east Delhi and the Shahinbagh movement have garnered silent response from these parties. It was believed that talking about these issues would upset Hindu voters and encourage BJP propaganda. The Muslim community feels orphaned.
But there is a downside to this strategy. Hinduism found a moral high ground for itself. It has been in place as out of condemnation. It was so ironic that opponents realized that Hindutva was harming the basic structure of the nation but supporting and advocating its own breadth. But how can the Modi government be challenged without trying to remove its core? It seems that Rahul Gandhi has misunderstood the logic of this strategy. But will his move be profitable?
The BJP has been blessed with an extremely powerful organizational instrument that has the power to turn lies into truth if necessary. It has the unprecedented support of a large section of the media which can help create a narrative that benefits the party. It is blessed with a charismatic leader who is extremely popular. Therefore, one could argue that Rahul Gandhi’s move could be a boomerang. I do not agree with this thesis. I think he diagnosed the problem correctly. It is important to realize that India has never faced such a situation. The country is facing a situation where it has become an ideological state and can only be fought ideologically with an ideological state and its heroes. This fight cannot be fought piecemeal, half-hearted efforts will not lead anywhere. To defeat Modi, Rahul Gandhi and the opposition must strike at the root of the RSS, that is their ideology, that is Hindutva. A large section of Hindus firmly believe that Hinduism is essential for India’s past glory. Unless people are told and believe that this is a lie, they will continue to vote for the BJP despite its repeated failures. I know this is a risky proposition but then there is no alternative.
However, Congress has very limited options to position itself as an effective alternative. So Rahul Gandhi has taken the risk of calculating correctly. One could argue that his team has nothing to lose today.
(Ashutosh writer and editor, satyahindi.com.)
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