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Dear Rahul, soft Hinduism can be a winner, but not with soft nationalism

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Rahul Gandhi is fighting BJP’s hard Hindutva with soft Hinduism. But fighting hard nationalism with soft nationalism will be disastrous.

He had to seek Lord Shiva’s good offices, but Rahul Gandhi has succeeded in getting the BJP in a tizzy. The sensible BJP response to his Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage could have been, what a great idea, sir-ji. May Bhole Baba give you some good sense and hope you pray for your rivals too. It would have closed the issue. A chilled-out God like Shiva would have likely appreciated it.

A picture of Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of ThePrintOn the contrary, the BJP, which outnumbers the Congress six to one in Lok Sabha, is desperately fact-checking not only the pictures from his pilgrimage, but also questioning whether he is there at all. A particularly under-employed, voluble and Twitter-happy minister is even playing Sherlock by claiming that the picture Rahul has posted is photo-shopped because you can’t see his walking stick’s shadow.

It’s nutty on the BJP’s part as much as it is smart politics from Rahul. The BJP is so obsessed with Jawaharlal Nehru they continue to believe that his agnosticism drives his future generations as well. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv both demonstrated that it wasn’t the case, and their secular commitment didn’t mean they were probable non-believers like the founder of their dynasty.


Also read: Why exactly is Rahul Gandhi going on Mansarovar yatra at peak of Madhya Pradesh campaign?


Indira Gandhi wore a rudraksh string, was often seen visiting temples and patronised babas and tantriks, while Rajiv Gandhi unlocked the Ram temple site in Ayodhya, facilitated the shilanyas (laying of the foundation stone) for the Ram Mandir-to-be-built, and launched his 1989 campaign from Ayodhya, promising Ram Rajya. The 10 UPA years may have confused the Modi-Shah BJP when, given the Centre-Left nature of the coalition, any display of religiosity was missing. But even then, in the one spirited speech Dr Manmohan Singh made in Parliament to defend his nuclear deal, he proudly invoked ‘Chandi di vaar’, Guru Gobind Singh’s stirring rendering of Goddess Chandi’s prayer to Lord Shiva while going into battle.

Indira onwards, the Congress had abandoned the Nehruvian definition of hard secularism, redefining it as a more pragmatic if cynical combination of soft, understated religiosity with aggressive minorityism, or what the BJP would call appeasement. Rahul has gone further, “coming out” as janeu-dhari (sacred thread-wearing) Hindu, which many of us God fearing lot aren’t, visiting temples wrapped in white, and now this celebrated pilgrimage to Shiva’s abode as the campaign season begins.

Rahul Gandhi’s turn to flaunt religiosity passes the test of strategic logic. He is attempting to counter BJP’s hard Hindutva with soft Hinduism.

Many of his new supporters in the hard-secular Left are disturbed, but Rahul has the political smarts to understand that this country stretches a little beyond the Revolutionary Republic of JNU and no one can win elections by conceding the gods to the other side. The BJP’s sharp reaction, as in questioning whether he squatted like a Hindu on his backside or knelt on his knees like a Muslim (in the recent past) and whether his pictures from Kailash Mansarovar are genuine, indicates that they are thrown by it. They never expected a Gandhi to challenge their monopoly over Hinduism.

Just as his own party is now surprised by his prompt and unqualified support to those arrested on charges of Maoist links. Is he now, while fighting BJP’s hard Hindutva with soft religiosity, also planning to counter its hard nationalism with soft nationalism? If so, it will mark not one but two fundamental shifts from the classical Congress approach, the second more significant than the first, and riskier.

His support to those arrested was probably instinctive, but not debated at any party forum and a little unthinking. At least four of these people were arrested or restricted by his own UPA government. One spent six years in jail as an undertrial and the other seven, as a convict under serious terror charges including UAPA. Kobad Ghandy and G.N. Saibaba were both arrested by his UPA and remain incarcerated. Two key Naxals, Azad and Kishanji, were killed in what might be called “controlled killings” or “black operations” by his own government’s agencies.

Is he now reversing that? Does his reaction indicate a softer approach to what Dr Manmohan Singh had described in 2006 as the gravest internal security threat to India? We must note that it was under UPA-1 when his government was also supported by the Left. Manmohan Singh was sharp enough to make a distinction between the political and militant Left, as was the Left Front itself, harassed by Naxals in Bengal.

It is difficult to see Rahul making a shift, although several individuals and groups who drew their power from their proximity to his mother had then campaigned to block the then-home minister P. Chidambaram’s tough approach after the security forces suffered some major setbacks—one, in Chintalnar in Chhattisgarh, still remains the largest day’s loss of life by India’s uniformed forces since the 1971 war, besides the night of fighting in Operation Blue Star. Just when his forces had begun to push Naxals back, Mani Shankar Aiyar described his policy as “one-eyed”, a key Naxal’s wife released in return for a kidnapped IAS officer in Odisha turned out to be the head of an NGO run by redoubtable NAC member and activist Harsh Mander, and then Binayak Sen, on bail after a sedition conviction, was brought into a health committee of the Planning Commission.


Also read: How many light bulbs does it take to change Rahul Gandhi?


Is that confusion returning now?

After the near-thing in Gujarat, we had said that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah BJP will not risk going to the 2019 polls primarily based on economic performance. They will offer the voter a buffet of Hindutva, anti-corruption crusades and hard nationalism. Rahul is countering the first with his own idea of Hinduism, the second the Congress has a poor chance of fighting given its own reputation. The third, it could have easily more than matched on its own past.

Few democracies have fought harder, even brutally, to preserve themselves than India. Every insurgency has been defeated and its leaders put away, or embraced in the political mainstream. It is true of the radical Left movements too at various junctures. India is an unrelenting and unforgiving hard state. Forget losing sovereignty, it has added to it, notably with the merger of Sikkim. Barring one and a half, India has never had a government soft on national security or nationalism. And even these, one (Janata, 1977) and a half (V.P. Singh, 1989-90) were short-lived. Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 on the twin thrust against a “khichdi sarkar” and a government so weak that even “little neighbours” were daring to glare at us (chhote desh bhi aankhein dikha rahe hain). It was a devastating pitch.

The Indian voter has never accepted a lazy, or muddled view of national security, external or internal. The armed Naxal movement has no support outside of the few remote districts they control any way and among a few ideological romantics. To be seen as soft towards them won’t get you any votes. India has no patience for such woolly-headedness. And in JNU, you’d be routed for not being revolutionary enough. Soft Hindutva-soft nationalism is self-destructive political schizophrenia. Unless it is rectified, and Rahul Gandhi comes clean on issues of national security, rather than merely list Modi’s “failures”, he will make his party fight 2019 on BJP’s terms and gift it an easy second term.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Shekhar Gupta has been brilliant in his political, social and even financial analysis since he started working in India Today , but lately he is imposing his personal biased thoughts into his intelligent readers , driving them to drift from him. It seems he is taking orders from someone, which is not good for such a seasoned and good political analyst and writer.

  2. When you said that “Make in India”, ” Air Defence Show” are tamaasha and the “so called secrets” are easily accessible to a teenage boy,, you displayed your biased reporting and anti- modi propaganda without any strong evidence and fact. You can only fool those who doesn’t know any detail about this deal.

  3. Shekhar Gupta has interpreted it wrongly .
    Is there any doubt , that Rahul can’t think of his own . the main culprit are policy writers of Rahul , just as there were script writers for Sonia

  4. Aaahhh… Be crooked – exploit religion carefully and softly while at the same time appeal to your anti-Hindu urban maoist audience. Also, make sure nobody finds your pretenses obvious – only dog whistles. Your article summed up Shekhar Gupta. Machiavelli would be proud of you – he learnt from the Borgias but couldn’t help anyone but you certainly can help the Gandhis.

  5. Regardless of cunning makeover to steal votes from simple folks Mr Gandhi and his makeup team will NOT be able to hide the disguise. Indians are far more aware of these political gimmiks. Honesty with some integrity is respected. This elite gang hardly has any of it so far. The wink said it all.

  6. Gutless Congress Party leadership who allowed a Dynastic rule to continue.

    There is only three words for junior and senior Congress Party leaders to describe the current Party state of affairs – “Shame on you”. You have let a seven time election looser become the party president and leader of the party.

    None of you stood up and said – ‘No’.

    Are you being paid to fall in line or being silenced under one or the other sort of threats? The Congress Party had high ideals. It gave the country independence from the British. Ruling for a very long time had made Congressmen arrogant hence had to be checked out of power in 2014. That timeframe of being out of power was to be used to think about Party platform modification for the shifting times. Instead, this 4.5 years were used to promote a ‘dodo’ to the power at the top and now instead of producing a better and more cohesive alternative development platform, has busied himself into manufacturing unfounded corruption charges against the ruling coalition.

    What is wrong with you Congressmen…..? The General Elections are just a few months away and in that duration you are supposed to present to the people your own better and grander ideas. Instead, you are indulging in unfounded mud slinging at the opponents.

    Are you short on talent, Congressmen?

    If ‘No’ is the answer, then check him out. Do not wait until another election loss. My belief is that he is ill advised. He has picked up less than smart people as advisers and handlers. They are misdirecting and misadvising him in every respect.

    Tell me, what is that stupidity of Mansrovar Yatra for the leader who is a born to a Roman Catholic mother and a Parsee/Brahmin father. He is just a quarter Hindu, hence Mansrovar Yatra is miss-suiting him. But here you can blame his handlers.

    Hence must you the Congressmen loose the forthcoming general elections, then go ahead follow his handlers’ advice? If not, then throw the current crop of handlers out and hire much smarter people to redirect Party energies or better still, force him to vacate the job.

    Cheers…..

    • “He is just a quarter Hindu, hence Mansrovar Yatra is miss-suiting him.” – yes. Pls go with that logic and avoid Hindu institutions everywhere – Congress Mukt Bharat won’t be too far away then.

    • Sir agreed, but two points, one this Congress didn’t get us Independence from Brits. Please visit Jalianwala Bagh, you will know. Second Read rightly about Feroz Khan father of Dead Rajeev, A Khan’s son & a Roman Catholic can not produce Brahmin by using any Technology. Can A donkey immersed in Ganges becomes Ghoda…..? You have the answer. Double Cheers.

  7. Quite timely and sane advice , if he ( Rahul ) and his coterie ever has the capacity to understand the precarious situation in which the country finds itself today ?

  8. Rahul infact does not know what he speaks and about which topic being a brainless kid how many awards he deserves after Pappu joker latest bafoon but congis r so blind and anti established after loosing black notes thus frustrated

      • Macha. Who spoke about Modi for you to refer to him? You leftist guys are obsessed with him. “Whatever Rahul has spoken has come true” – he is barely coherent when he speaks generally. When he talks, he sounds like he is speaking in tongues, so it is understandable that you think he is a fortune-teller.

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