Rahul Gandhi | rahulgandhi/Facebook
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In Congress’ slide to soft Hindutva, the fraud of secular politics has been exposed.

A gaushala in every panchayat, a cow sanctuary in the state, commercial production of gau mutra, building Narmada parikrama and Ram Van Gaman Path…

This shows the Congress’ slide from secularism to ‘soft Hindutva’. It did not happen overnight. It’s time we traced the decline of secular politics in four distinct stages since Independence.

The items in the Congress manifesto for Madhya Pradesh assembly election have been seen, rightly so, as signs of the Congress’ surrender to politics of Hindutva. Mind you, these promises are not as ridiculous and regressive as these are made out to be.

Animal welfare demands more and better-run gaushalas. Promotion of cultural tourism justifies construction of Narmada parikrama. But that is surely not what motivates the Congress. It is a desperate attempt by the Congress to play on the Hindutva wicket set by and for the BJP. The chairman of the Congress’ manifesto committee was disarmingly candid in admitting that the party was keen to shed the ‘Muslim party’ tag.


Also read: ‘Rahul Gandhi practicing actual Hindutva, and not soft Hindutva’


This is not the first time the Congress has shown proclivity towards ‘soft Hindutva’. Rahul Gandhi has followed this strategy in Gujarat and Karnataka too. And the Congress is not the only ‘secular’ party taking this path. Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has promised building of a grand Vishnu temple.

Secularists have responded to this ‘soft Hindutva’ turn in two ways. The more ‘principled’ secularists have decried it as a regrettable slide into majoritarian politics. They believe that secular politics has given up on the more difficult but feasible path of taking on communalism frontally. The more ‘pragmatic’ secularists argue that the Congress has no other option. They see this as a justified but short-term tactic to take on Hindutva on its own terms. So, those who think it is regrettable argue that it is avoidable. Those who think it is not avoidable find it justified. This dilemma and debate is likely to persist right through the Lok Sabha polls. And perhaps, after that as well.

Both the sides are partly true. Pandering to majoritarian sentiments is without doubt a worrisome trend. It may look like a tactical move today, but yesterday’s tactic is today’s norm. At the same time, it is equally true that parties like the Congress have no option today. In today’s context, they cannot afford to take a ‘hard’ secularist position, if they hope to win elections. So, the Congress-style ‘soft Hindutva’ is both regrettable and necessary. Secular politics has no one except itself to blame. What passes for secular politics has made no room for itself to take principled secular positions. The mid-point of public opinion is simply not prepared for hard secular policies and politics. Not to put too fine a point: secular politics is paying for its sins.


Also read: The good Muslim-bad Muslim binary is as old as Nehru


The slide from politics of conviction to politics of capitulation did not happen overnight. I suppose there are four stages that brought secular politics, step-by-step, to the current impasse. You may also see these four as tendencies that have existed within secular politics right from the beginning.

Secular politics began as politics of conviction. In the aftermath of Partition, it was courageous, almost heroic, to uphold the idea that India is not a Hindu Pakistan. Mahatma Gandhi’s supreme sacrifice and Jawaharlal Nehru’s popularity created an unusual condition for passage of legislation like the Hindu Code Bill. To be sure, there was already a disconnect between secular politics and the sensibility of an ordinary, believing Hindu. But an undercurrent of Hindu unease, especially among the Partition ‘refugees’ who suffered its violence, did not matter much at that moment. Muslims were too shocked and unsettled. A secular India was good reason for them to commit to this young nation.

Soon, conviction gave in to convenience. As challenges arose to the Congress hegemony, a large and growing Muslim community proved to be a very useful ally for the dominant party. The Congress leaders realised that securing Muslim votes was rather easy. You just needed to make the right noises, extend some symbolic concessions and keep the Muslim clergy happy. Politics of Muslims as vote bank and policies aimed at appeasement of the Muslim clergy were born then. Ordinary Muslims got little out of this, but an ordinary Hindu began to notice ‘preferential treatment’ of the Muslims.

The third phase was the worst, as convenience turned into an electoral and political compulsion for secular politics. The Congress began to lose elections as large groups like the OBCs moved towards the opposition. Now, assured Muslim vote was critical to the Congress’ survival. The surest way of doing so was to keep Muslims insecure. And lest they forget their need for security, riots happened at regular intervals. Other ‘secular’ parties copied the model invented by the Congress. Unlike other castes and communities, you don’t need to offer education, jobs, bijlisadakpaani to secure Muslim votes. Just keep them insecure and keep offering them security. Muslims were perfect political hostage to ‘secular’ politics. Anything that pandered to Muslim ‘sentiment’ as defined by its leadership was kosher, as secular politics was seen to be pro-minority. Any party opposed to BJP could call itself secular. Hindus were distracted by caste politics that was presented as social justice. The results were disastrous: Muslims kept receding into backwardness while Hindus resented the appeasement of minorities.


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


This set the stage for what we see today: capitulation of secular politics. The Ayodhya movement busted the duplicity in secular politics. Elections provided enough incentives for a politics of hatred and lies supported by the Sangh Parivar. Long disengagement with and disrespect for public opinion had left secular politics with little resources to counter these lies. The centre of public opinion shifted towards Hindutva. Secular politics faced a Hobson’s choice: it could take a ‘hard’ line and face electoral marginalisation. Or, it could go for ‘soft Hindutva’ and betray its cause. Some strands of secular politics delayed the encounter with public by playing caste divisions. But the inevitable happened in 2014. No wonder the Congress-style secular politics has capitulated.

We don’t yet know whether ‘soft Hindutva’ will pay in the short term. But we do know that this not the way forward in the long run. Secularism needs to be rescued and reinvented, for secularism is a sacred principle of the Indian Republic. We either have secular India or we have no India. But rescuing secular principles must begin by exposing the fraudulence of what goes by the name of secular politics.

Yogendra Yadav is National President of Swaraj India.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Without providing his definition of secularism, the author claims:
    “We either have secular India or we have no India.”

    Another pseudo-secular, pseudo-liberal in the garb of Swaraj.

  2. These are indeed hard times for intellectuals like Yogendra. Another Modi sarkar in 2019 will bring congress to shambles and with that, there will be even more pro Hindu turn by congress by 2024, thereby accentuating majoritarianism. However, the best way forward for India is to have so called Hindus as one voting bloc obliterating caste distinctions amongst them and constitutional guarantees to minorities. In longer term, contrary to what Yogendra pines for, there is nothing like true secularism but pure politics of majority as it should be in any democracy with constitutional protections of rights for minorities. In India, since Hinduism is not a religion in the sense Islam and Christianity are, and is more way of life, this is even a logical outcome. The quicker we all understand this practical reality, better it is for us so that we have people voting on considerations other than artificially invented distinctio on religious grounds.

  3. This is an article typical of fake secularist. So much of lies and prejudice filled opinions. No where you mentioned about other religions. ” Hindu Code Bill” is mammoth effort by all the Hindu law makers and Pandit Nehru played good part in that. Why Hindu Lawmakers did what they did? Because they have nowhere to go except this India. This is only place on Mother Earth where Hindu’s can claim it is their own. 85% population does need personal law. In history, Hindu is one who kept reforming and Hindu code bill is amended frequently. Now, why Pandit Nehru could not bring a Muslim Code bill which he wanted? If he had done that, then I can say Pandit Nehru did a monumental task. Unfortunately Muslim’s never cooperated and I will not blame Pandit Nehru for that. Your next lie is “Muslims were too shocked and unsettled”. If that was the case, they would have migrated from North India. Just 8% moved to either side of India. And that is their choice and the % of Muslims never fell in 70 years. What does it say of Hindu’s? Did they put the Muslims in fear? BJP is a recent phenomenon. You make it sound as if RSS and BJP were omnipresent and omnipotent and endangering Muslims. Congress had close to 40-50 years of uninterrupted government. But it is the Muslim votes that you needed always and took Hindus for Granted. Your article is typical of insulting Hindu’s. Are we so barbaric that Congress has to put fear of Hindus into Muslims? No Party is secular in India. BJP is a reaction and sometimes with bad consequences to fake secularism practiced by others. Your article is typical of fake secularists. Keep demonising Hindu’s and do not blames us if we react and vote for BJP.

  4. No party which wants to rule can ignore the Hindu sentiments. While it may be too early for a full-fledged Hindu voting block, the signs certainly are leading us there & I pray Yadavji will come to see it in his lifetime.

  5. On the face of it, Mr Yadav’s analysis sounds quite plausible! The devil is in the definition and interpretation of the concept of Secularism. This concept in its original definition is a principle whereby there is a separation of the State from the Church – a concept that found its origins in the Chrisitian West. The Indian constitution did not even embody this term till 1976 when the Emergency Government of Mrs Gandhi changed the Constitution. Suffice it to say that the Congress and its Leftist cohorts have chosen to interpret this as a means to play down the majority culture and its faith, try to nullify it by way of Uniform Civil Code so as to remove its religious biases. They did not do any such thing to other minority faiths, most prominent of which is Islam. Instead they played vote bank politics for their own benefit and made any assertion of a Hindu culture based polity something to be ashamed of and apologetic about. That is not secularism by any definition. Ultimately one can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all of the time. Their brand of secularism was to divide the Hindu community by castes so as to render the cohesiveness of that community impotent. A secular India would have focused on the economic deprivation of all its peoples, regardless of caste or creed. A secular minded Indian leadership would have unambiguously promoted reform of all faiths as practised in the country. Instead, the Congress and their Leftist leaders, notionally Hindus, adorn themselves in Islamic symbolism as they go cap in hand to the doors of the Islamic clergy for electoral endorsements.That, Mr Yadav is the truth of “secular’ India and that is NOT secularism in anyone’s definition. We have been living in a fool’s paradise. The majority Hindus, for whom India is the only place where they can practise their faith unfettered (Nepal excepted) are made to feel apologetic for so doing! No-one would dare to criticise the US, UK, European countries and heck even Australia and New Zealand as not being “secular” even as they are manifestly Christian in character and values. The fact is the proponents of Indian style secularism are only for separation of the Hindu ‘Church’ from the State but they are equally mindful of tolerating and even encouraging the minority faiths not to be subjected to the same standards and values of secularism. Is it any wonder that we are where we are in our politics? The very exercise of hypocritical “Soft Hindutva” of Rahul Gandhi’s politics is an admission of the bankruptcy of their brand of politics! However, if they think the Hindu community will fall for that, which they clearly do, that remains to be seen. In a recent video clip of Congress leader Kamal Nath going viral where he is addressing an audience of Muslim leaders in Madhya Pradesh beseeching them to put up with this election period Soft Hindutva. This is the hypocrisy and cynicism of their politics and by garbing it under a respectful notion and label of Secularism they have been trying to hoodwink the minorities for far too long. Only other thing worse than that, argubly, has been their peddling of their brand of (Champagne) Socialism where the fat cast get fatter and the have nots get busy sloganeering and dreaming! Sorry, Mr Yadav, India has found out your tribe! No longer!

  6. Even more perhaps than the BJP, the Congress believes in being in office, not Hindutva, regular, or thin crust, with or without extra toppings. An impression has been created that the party is for the Muslims, actually anti Hindu. Absurd charge against a party that has ruled over an 85% Hindu country for more than 50 years, but in these WhatsApp times, the Congress does not believe into getting into an argument with an adversary on an issue which is so basic to the latter’s stated agenda. Visiting a few temples is okay to make a point but one agrees with the columnist that some of the things the party is promising in MP sound silly. Whether or not the party builds a few desultory gaushalas, it had better start work on its economic blueprint. Distress is widespread and people are impatient. It cannot be business as usual if it is able to create UPA III.

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