Several saffron-clad sadhus led by Namdeo Das Tyagi, or Computer Baba, marched in support of Bhopal’s Congress candidate Digvijaya Singh Wednesday. “A vote for Digvijaya would be in the interest of Narmada Maiyya and for Gau Mata,” the sadhus said. Singh is contesting against 2008 Malegaon blast accused BJP candidate Pragya Thakur.
ThePrint asks: Digvijaya Singh’s Bhopal campaign against Pragya Thakur proof secularism can’t work in 2019?
Real sadhus, angered by BJP fielding a fake ‘Sadhvi’, are supporting Congress
Pratap Bhanu Sharma
Vice President, Madhya Pradesh Congress
It is the BJP that is responsible for giving these elections a communal colour, not the Congress. By making a terror accused a candidate in Bhopal, and then continuing to call her a ‘Sadhvi’, it has only angered the real sadhus. A true sadhu takes a complete sanyaas from worldly pleasures – and certainly doesn’t contest elections.
The support pouring in for Digvijaya Singh from sadhus is completely organic and it is they who took the initiative to march in his rally. Hundreds of sadhus, led by Computer Baba, were in fact hurt by how the BJP was fielding a potential criminal and calling her a ‘Sadhvi’.
The BJP has no monopoly over Hinduism, and has no right to issue certificates and decide who are the true Hindus and who aren’t. It is wrong to suggest that the Congress isn’t practicing secularism in this election, because the Congress understands what secularism truly stands for and how Hinduism encompasses secular values. A Hindu is secular and respects all religions. The BJP keeps talking about Ram every other day, but couldn’t even fulfil its promise of building a Ram Mandir in the last five years. Digvijaya Singh, on the other hand, enjoys support from all religions and communities.
Congress has lost Muslim votebank & is trying to make dents in BJP voter base
BJP Madhya Pradesh spokesperson
The question is – why did the Congress feel the need to try and appropriate Hinduism and Hindutva? Pragya Thakur has always been a ‘Sadhvi’, so it is only natural to have her talk about Hinduism and call herself a proud Hindu. The Congress always pretended like it is only interested in development politics, but today, it is getting sadhus to rally for Digvijaya Singh.
The Congress tried to please the Muslim votebank in its previous terms. But it knows all too well that the Muslims too have grown disillusioned with the party. The Congress has never cared to empower the Muslims and the Sachar report is the biggest proof of this. The party is trying to project Pragya Thakur as “anti-Muslim”, when in reality, she has never made any anti-Muslim statement. Now, when the Congress knows it has lost the Muslim votebank, it is trying to make dents in the BJP’s voter base.
By getting sadhus in rallies, the Congress is trying to create a division, a friction of sorts, in the Hindu voter base. But thanks to the Congress now, the discourse is completely centred around Hindu-Muslims, secularism-communalism. Rahul Gandhi has suddenly become a Ram worshipper and Digvijaya Singh gets sadhus to support him – these reek of desperation.
Digvijaya Singh’s campaign in Bhopal reflects the Congress high command’s mindset
It is a common fallacy to consider the Congress as a “liberal” party. The pre and post-Independent history of India is filled with instances of the Congress acting like a Right-wing party.
In 1948, Congress president ‘Acharya’ Kripalani had toured Pakistan to assert that interests of Hindus in the newly formed state were of concern to the Indian union and the Congress. Whether it was the demand for creation of Punjabi suba or separatism in Punjab, Indira Gandhi closely identified herself with “Hindu” interests. K. Karunakaran was a towering Hindu leader in Kerala and so was Tarun Gogoi in Assam.
Against this backdrop and with the rise of the BJP, it is fair to deduce that secularism is no longer an issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as the BJP and its supposed rivals are competing to grab “Hindu” space and attention.
Digvijaya Singh’s campaign in Bhopal reflects the Congress high command’s mindset. His victory will pave the way for more Hindu-centric political campaigns in the future.
Congress circles were relieved when Kanhaiya Kumar did not turn up to campaign for Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal.
Just because some parties use religion, wrong to suggest secular politics is no longer imaginable
I don’t agree with the postulation that the Bhopal campaign is proof that secularism cannot work as a poll issue anymore. If we agree to this, then we are effectively surrendering to communalism and hateful politics.
It is true that India is currently experiencing an existential crisis of sorts, with fascist forces attacking the Constitution and the republic’s secular democracy. The BJP fielding a terror accused is deeply disturbing.
As far as the Congress is concerned, it is for the party and its leadership to decide whether they think aligning with religious forces is in the larger interest of the country. Religion and politics should be kept separate, and no one should be allowed to garner votes using religion. Only then can we expect politicians to speak in the interest of the country, and talk about real issues that concern citizens.
It is wrong to suggest that just because some parties in India have always used religion, secular politics is no longer imaginable. Ambedkar’s politics, the Left’s politics are examples of secular politics. Even Mahatma Gandhi used religion only to mobilise people and unite them – not to divide them.
The Indian voter is also maturing; they are wise enough to see through the farce and understand what really will bring them development and prosperity.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.
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