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HomePoliticsCongress cannot afford to become BJP-lite, says Shashi Tharoor

Congress cannot afford to become BJP-lite, says Shashi Tharoor

At ThePrint’s Off The Cuff, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor says party will end up becoming ‘Congress Zero’ if it tries to emulate BJP. He also said the post-liberalisation Congress has not been left of centre.

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New Delhi: The Congress cannot afford to become BJP-lite, party leader Shashi Tharoor said, addressing allegations that the outfit was adopting ‘soft-Hindutva’.

Speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta during a virtual Off The Cuff interaction Wednesday, Tharoor said the Congress party isn’t like the BJP “in any shape or form”.

“I know this is a real and tangible concern among many liberals. But we cannot afford to become BJP-lite,” Tharoor said. “I have long argued that any attempt to emulate Pepsi-lite like BJP-lite will end with us becoming like Coke Zero or Congress Zero.”

“The Congress is not the BJP in any shape or form. We should not attempt to be a lighter version of what we are not. And I would argue we are not really trying to,” he added. “The Congress makes the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hinduism we respect as an inclusive and non-judgmental religion, Hindutva, on the other hand, is a political doctrine based on exclusion.”

The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram has recently released his latest book, The Battle of Belonging, exploring ideas of nationalism and patriotism.

Tharoor also defended Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“Rather than offering a watered down version of BJP’s political messaging, what the Congress is saying is that as a personal religion u can have your Hinduism, there is no harm in going to temples,” Tharoor said. “When Rahul Gandhi goes to temples… He has also said he doesn’t believe in Hindutva, either soft or hard.”

The leader added that he too goes to temples, as well as mosques and churches in his constituency.

“As a politician you have an obligation to show respect to those things that are precious to your voters. Unless you fundamentally disagree, why wouldn’t you go,” Tharoor said.


‘Letter signatories are dyed-in-the-wool Congress people’

Tharoor also spoke of the letter signed by 23 Congress leaders, including himself, earlier in August, in which the signatories demanded a “full time and effective leadership”. They had also sought a leadership that is both “visible” and “active” in the field, and called for elections to be conducted for Congress Working Committee membership.

Tharoor said all the leaders who signed the letter spoke in the interest of the Congress, and not as an act of disloyalty.

“We are all dyed-in-the-wool Congress people, look at the names who have signed the letter,” Tharoor said. “There’s nobody with a BJP-type thinking. On the contrary, these are people who want Congress to be a stronger instrument against the BJP.”

Other prominent signatories of the letter included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari.

“Our concerns are in the interest of the party; they aren’t in any way meant to be disloyal to the party,” Tharoor said. “And I would reiterate that we want the party to succeed and thrive.”

In a CWC meeting following the letter, the signatories were snubbed by the top leadership for the timing of the letter. “There was some pushback at the time,” Tharoor said, adding that he wouldn’t like to delve deeper into it.

“As you know the issue was discussed in one working committee meeting and we have understood there is a movement happening to implement some of the things we asked for including elections in the near future but we have not been officially informed…I hope there would be a clear message to us,” Tharoor said.

Also read: Congress drags down RJD-led Mahagathbandhan with its poor strike rate of 28%

‘CAA is victory of Jinnah’s idea of subcontinent’

Tharoor also said that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a “victory for Jinnah’s idea of the subcontinent”.

“The home minister’s linking of the CAA with the nationwide NRC was a fundamental assault on the Constitution,” Tharoor said. “It’s a victory for Jinnah’s idea of subcontinent, it is a violation of everything the Constitution stands for.”

Tharoor also made a food analogy to differentiate his idea of nationalism, with that of the RSS.

“RSS’ idea of diversity in unity is that we are all Hindus, and essentially we are a khichdi. Mine is a thali concept of nationalism, all the dishes are in different bowls and they don’t necessarily flow into each other,” he said.

“Disagreeing when the government goes wrong is not anti-national, it is the highest form of patriotism,” Tharoor further said.

“Patriotism is essentially about loving your country because it’s yours. Whereas a patriot is willing to die for his country, a nationalist is willing to kill for his state,” Tharoor said.

The Congress leader also added that acceptance has been an important aspect of Hinduism.

“For those in Hindutva who tell me that secularism is in denial of India’s Hindu history, I tell them that Hindutva is in denial of this essential aspect of Hinduism, which is acceptance,” he said.

‘Post-liberalisation Congress is not left of Centre’

Addressing questions about Congress being a “left of centre” party, Tharoor said that it is a mischaracterisation.

“The post liberalisation Congress party is not against conventional right of centre ideas guided by the spirit of distributing the profits and revenues that come from growth,” Tharoor said. “So let the private sector grow the country but make sure the benefits of this actually go to the weak and marginalised.”

Tharoor cited ideas proposed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia and former finance minister P. Chidambaram as not fitting the left of centre categorisation.

“Manmohan Singh says yes, we must free the economy, but he also says whatever we are able to get out of this, I will give MNREGA. I will protect the marginalised. This is not classic left of centre thought,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor, however, added that there are some principal differences that must be kept in mind and adhered to.

“You cannot be an avowed secularist and be in the BJP, and similarly you cannot have sympathy for Hindutva and be in the Congress,” he said.

Speaking about the Narendra Modi government’s decision to bring all digital media platforms, including news media and online curated content providers, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Tharoor said it is an administrative decision.

“We know that this is an administrative decision, it is neither a regulatory decision nor a legislative action. The obvious implication is that I&B’s policies with regard to films will be extended to OTT platforms,” Tharoor, who is the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology, said.

Also read: Punjab’s protesting farmers playing into Modi govt’s hands, says state Congress chief


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  1. Janeudhari, Soft-Hindutva, Alliance with Shiv Sena, the Love affair with AUDF – Still pretending to be holier than thou? The BJP has not broken any rule that the Congress hasn’t already broken.

  2. Pre-Islam and before the European traders hit Indian shores, Hinduism was an inclusive and non-judgemental religion. But the advent of the Abrahmic religions with their “my way or the highway” philosophy has forced Hinduism over 700 years to lose territory (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka), lakhs of lives and converts and also gave birth to a breed of self-deprecating Indians, who in positions of power rewrote our history books and denied the truth to Hindus. Hence, to protect oneself and project power in future, a political version of Hinduism, namely Hindutva, was necessary to keep the followers of the Abrahmic religions at bay. Tharoor speaks smoothly but he mostly speaks empty words bereft of ideology.

  3. They need to become nothing under Pappu and Italian Sonia other than a real-estate holding company. Is it hard to see that they are so irrelevant even regional parties with young leaders are looking at them and saying “Stay out of our state”.

  4. Shashi ji forgets the logical (and philosophical) robustness of Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance. Islam and Christianity (which he claims to pander to so as to look secular to his “constituents”) have never been know to be inclusive – and are historically proven to be bigoted, violent, brutally proselytizing and ultimately political/imperial corruption of what should be “personal faith”.

    Thus Hindus, the people across the Sindhu River – have absolutely no need to accept and embrace this baloney and bigotry of Abrahamic “faiths”. And Hindus have always been a geographic connotation (be it the original word etymology) or the current RSS interpretation. Hinduism is the totality of faith system of the people constituting Hindus. And that includes people of personal Abrahamic belief – but it also means that they keep it personal and not take extra-territorial money/alliances to spread their faith and oppress their neighbours – which is exactly what the Churches/Mosques do in verifiably blatant and shameless manner (and also in insidious ways) .

    Real Hindus will stop with being agents of extraterritorial powers and actually keep their personal morality intact, instead they are happy being imperialist cannon fodder. Dharmic people have absolutely no need to put up with these shenanigans, and should actively curtail, call out and eventual run out these agents of Abraham to places they already owe allegiance to – Bharat can do without these ~240 million wannabe traitors/cannon-fodder types, we won’t miss them even if these “sick” Shashi-types do. And like all stats not all individuals are bad/good – but the basic hypocrisy/intolerance/bigotry needs to be called out.

  5. Experiment of becoming Muslim League-Lite has already failed.
    be Congress of yore. That is the only salvation for Congress.
    And yes, get rid of Maharani and Yuvraj.

  6. Loads of baloney, intellectualising about a party which has no view point, confused group of corrupt , moslty old timers with a leadership which would do well with its absence!!

  7. Shashi Tharoor is a kid who is in mid sixties. He lacks maturity, though he is sometimes brilliant. Shashi Tharoor has also written a book on Hinduism.

    Let him explain on what basis, Rahul Gandhi born to Sonia Gandhi, a Roman Catholic Christian and Rajiv Gandhi, who is half parsi, claim to be Shiv Bhakt Janeu Dhari Brahman? It is besides the point that Rajiv Gandhi is half Parsi is a debatable issue. There is no end to the shenannigans of politicians.

  8. He says that a king in kerala was influenced by the PROPHET and went to meet him and actually met him.


    His political colleague with obivious go ahead from THE FAMILY gave an affidavit in COURT that SHRI RAM IS A MYTH.

    SO when PEOPLE point out how he and his colleagues are under the thumbs of proselytizers, hence fake propaganda against HINDUS and FAKE NARRATIVE for the benefit of proselytizers. Isn’t that precisely the issue.

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