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The Congress Is India's Original Hindu Party, The Others Are Copycats

20/06/2016 8:26 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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The Congress will never acknowledge it, nor will the BJP dare to expose it, but the only Indian party that has consistently stood up for the Hindus while appearing unswervingly secular is the Indian National Congress. It is a model that the Congress has evolved over decades and it is also one that will endure even if the party itself disappears. Any Indian political party aspiring for a national role has no choice but to adopt the "Congress way" of strong centralized control with loyal local satraps in place and a proven capacity to accommodate and manage India's many diversities while assiduously nursing its Hindu core.

Notwithstanding its claim to be a secular party, in the lead up to freedom, the Congress party was perceived as a very Hindu one and its professed secularism seen as a mere cover for its majoritarian mindset. It is in post-independence India that the party's traditional secular stance scored. There wasn't another party that India's minorities, especially its Muslims -- much reduced in numbers by Partition and totally insecure -- could or would turn to for succour. But ever mindful of its Hindu base, a Congress under Nehru also did everything it could to retain Hindu trust. There is compelling evidence for this.

It was only during UPA2 that the Congress began its fatal drift from its Hindu moorings. This, asserted the AK Antony report, contributed to the party's 2014 rout.

The 1948 Sunderlal Report which established the massacre of around 40,000 Muslims following the takeover of Hyderabad State by India remained under wraps on Nehru's orders for decades. In deference to Hindu sentiments the Indian Constitution aspirationally seeks to ban cow-slaughter altogether one of these days. Notwithstanding his serious differences with a staunchly pro-Hindu leader like Purushottam Das Tandon, Nehru never forced the former out of the Congress Party and instead went on to confer the country's highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, on him in 1961.

It was ensured early on that India's affirmative action programme essentially covered only Scheduled Caste Hindus. When it came to legal reforms the only modernization that took place was of Hindu laws, leaving other religious communities, especially their women, stuck in antiquated and stifling tradition. The massacres that took place of non-Hindus, be it the Muslims in Nellie or the Sikhs in Delhi, happened under Congress watch and despite decades having passed few of the guilty have been punished. The list could go on. The Congress record of supporting Hindu causes remains formidable and unmatched, not even by the BJP.

When they found the ground slipping under their feet, both Indira and Rajeev Gandhi nimbly burnished their Hindu credentials, the latter by practically gifting control of Babri Masjid to Hindu fundamentalists. It was only during UPA2 that the Congress began its fatal drift from its Hindu moorings. This, asserted the AK Antony report, contributed to the party's spectacular rout in the 2014 general elections.

[T]he "Congress way'' of being secular yet staunchly (albeit subtly) Hindu has been quietly adopted by the AAP and is now being appropriated by the BJP too.

Since then, the Congress has been scrambling to win back its Hindus. Indicative of that is Rahul Gandhi's well-publicized pilgrimage to Kedarnath where at the shrine he announced he felt "some fire power." On another occasion he even publicly proclaimed that he was a Brahmin. Not to be missed is Sonia Gandhi's highly emotional assertion that her ashes "will mingle with my loved ones in India."

Unfortunately for the Congress, it is becoming increasingly clear that the "Congress way'' of being secular yet staunchly (albeit subtly) Hindu has been quietly adopted by the AAP and is now being appropriated by the BJP too. Those who see the inevitability of a fascist Hindu India emerging under the BJP are in my view missing this emerging reality altogether. Consider the facts.

Following its victory in the 2014 General election, the BJP chose to administer the country as part of an NDA coalition when it had the numbers to go solo. This was a wise move as it paved the way for political parties that would never have previously aligned with the BJP now actively partnering it in several places. An avowedly Sikh party, the Akali Dal as well as the Lok Jan Shakti led by the Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan are now its allies in government. In J&K, India's only Muslim majority state the BJP is the improbable coalition partner of the PDP.

[The] BJP... is determined to make India Congress-free in the only way possible -- by making itself indistinguishable from the Congress, except for one difference... a dynamic leader.

Under a clueless mother-son duo, the Congress party is on the verge of surrendering its secular-yet-Hindu USP to a rampant BJP which is determined to make India Congress-free in the only way possible -- by making itself indistinguishable from the Congress party, except for one vital difference: a great future under a "dynamic" leader, Narendra Modi. The big challenge for an ever-pragmatic Modi is to stay the course on this and recast the BJP in the Congress mould as a staunchly Hindu yet secular party. Such a makeover of the BJP will take some effort, especially in the face of the more extremist elements within its ranks who are determined to ensure that the party remains shrilly and visibly Hindu and not at all secular, completely ignoring the strong possibility that it can be both.

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