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Battle on two fronts as BJP, Congress, RJD trade barbs on cows and Rahul Gandhi

PM Modi’s reference to the cow as ‘mother’ Thursday, and Rahul Gandhi’s continuing campaign to differentiate Hinduism and Hindutva, have led to a fierce war of words.

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New Delhi: Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the cow as ‘mother’ in a speech, and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi criticised Hindutva and drew a distinction between it and Hinduism in a tweet, a war of words has erupted between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition parties on two fronts.

Leaders of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) questioned the BJP’s stance on cows, saying that Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar had himself rejected the notion of the animal as ‘mother’ and condoned eating beef.

Meanwhile, the BJP and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched attacks on Rahul Gandhi, his ancestry and his credentials as a Hindu.

VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal told ThePrint, making allegations against Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, “A brother and sister who claim to be Hindu organised a beef party in Kerala. How have they suddenly become Hindus? They have forgotten Feroze Ghandy. His mother is a Christian. The Pope has visited their home. They have not done ghar wapsi (conversion) from Christianity. Their intention is only to denigrate Hindutva and Savarkar.”

BJP national spokesperson R.P. Singh told ThePrint, “During election time, Rahul Gandhi showed his janeu and his credentials, but his party’s belief in killing cows and denigrating Hindu dharma shows his non-belief in Hindutva.” In 2017, ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Congress had described Rahul as a janeudhari (sacred thread-wearing) Hindu.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi not a Hindu: Union minister targets Cong leader over remarks on Hindu, Hindutva

Hinduism vs Hindutva, and ‘mother cow’

Continuing the theme of his 12 December speech in Jaipur, and referring to the alleged Ayodhya land scam, Rahul Gandhi Wednesday differentiated Hinduism from Hindutva in a tweet, saying, “A Hindutvavadi loots in the name of religion. A Hindu follows the path of truth.”

In response, the Karnataka BJP Friday attacked Rahul’s ancestry in a tweet.

The Uttarakhand BJP questioned Rahul’s religion, tweeting Friday, “Those who go to church and play the part of a Hindu for electoral reasons can’t understand Hindutva or the Hindu religion.”

The Madhya Pradesh BJP also tweeted Friday, “Rahul Gandhi is the same kind of Hindu Shashi Tharoor was talking about, who doesn’t want a temple in Ayodhya.” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had said in 2018 that “no good Hindu would want to see a Ram temple built by demolishing someone else’s place of worship.”

Haryana BJP MLA Aseem Goel also hit out at Rahul Saturday, saying, “Rahul Gandhi himself doesn’t know if he is Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. There should be research on this subject. He should not worry about the country, but about the history and geography of himself and his family.”

The other front began when, addressing farmers in Varanasi Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that while even talking about cows was a “crime” for some, “for us the cow is mother and is sacred and worshipped”.

In response, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said Saturday while addressing a party event in Bhopal that Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar had himself condoned eating beef.

“Savarkar has mentioned in his book that there is no relation between the Hindu religion and Hindutva, that the cow is an animal that rolls around in its own mal (filth) — so how can it be our mata (mother) — and that there is no problem with eating beef,” said Singh.

A day later, Shivanand Tiwari, a leader and former Rajya Sabha MP of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) made similar remarks, saying, “How can an animal be a mother or father of a human? How can a cow that spills its own excreta by its tail be called a mother? It is an insult to the human race. You can’t choose one portion of Savarkar’s Hindutva and ignore others. It’s a total double standard by the BJP” 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh told ThePrint that it would suit the BJP if Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh continued to raise such issues. The leader claimed that Singh had helped the BJP in the past by referring to Osama bin Laden as “Osamaji”

The leader added that the Congress’s credentials to protect the interests of Hindus were weak, and that Singh was helping the BJP by causing suspicion among Hindus, the majority of whom see the cow as sacred and a “mother”.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Datta Peetha-Bababudangiri: How Karnataka’s Hindu-Muslim shrine became ‘Ayodhya of the South’


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