Congress drove Hindu voters into BJP’s arms: Here’s how it can win them back
First, the party needs to understand it will never win elections till some of its leaders keep mocking Hindu sentiments and rituals.
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The year 2014 will go down in history as one that saw a massive win for the right wing — not just as a political party, but as an ideology of Hindus needing 'saviours' in a country where they are in a majority.
The subsequent years saw state after state being won by the same ideology. While the BJP formally claimed — and still claims — that they seek votes in the name of ‘vikas’ (development), it is quite apparent that their agenda is only Hindutva. Since 2014, religious polarisation is on openly, and elections are being won in the name of “Hindu khatre mein hai (Hindus are in danger)” and the main Opposition, Congress, is “anti –Hindu”.
This should be funny in a country where Hindus are in an overwhelming majority. But unfortunately, this narrative is somewhere being accepted by a large segment of Indian Hindu voters. Who are they 'in danger' from? A significantly smaller minority? That can’t be. Then whom do they fear?
The BJP has succeeded in convincing many Hindus that it's the only party that cares for them. (Photo: PTI/file)
The sad reality today is that both the minority and the majority communities are afraid of each other, and of practising their religion openly.
This, in a country that has always been secular at its very core — from its culture to its Constitution.
Are the communities right in fearing each other? No, they are in the clutches of a political agenda, and are looking for ways to survive an imaginary 'crisis' that social media — and indeed, sections of the news media — is telling them the country is in the throes of.
But then, there is a reason this propaganda, this agenda, found an easy path to spread — something we can’t afford to ignore any more.
For long, some Hindus in this country have felt neglected.
There is a perception that while problems faced by the minorities get attention, no one wants to lend an ear to the issues of the majority community.
In fact, even today, no one is trying to understand why some Hindus are bending towards an extreme ideology. They are doing so because they genuinely believe that only one party cares about their interests. This is the reason they are aggressively opposed to any other party — specifically, the Congress party.
Though it’s all very fine and virtuous to say that religion and politics should be kept separate, this is practically impossible in a religious country like India, where everyone has the constitutional right to publicly practise their faith.
Such statements are okay when made by NGOs and Leftist individuals — who don’t have to face the hurly burly of electoral politics.
These people can sing any song that places them on a supposed moral high ground of 'champions of equality and humanitarianism'.
However, no serious political party in India, which has to go out on the ground and seek votes, can afford such impracticality. Political parties are meant to run an entire nation — not an NGO or a website or a news channel.
Politics can never be kept totally separate from religion in a country as deeply religious as India. (Photo: PTI/file)
The people of this country look to their government for education and jobs, but equally for representation, for equality, and for respect to their faith and their values.
Let’s look at the political scenario today.
While, on the one hand, the BJP has succeeded in understanding the core issue of Hindus and emotionally manipulating them — thereby establishing itself as a ‘Hindu party’ — the Congress’ commitment to both Hinduism and secularism looks equally hollow.
A political party that was in power for almost 60 out of independent India’s 70-year history is ideologically so weak today that it is being projected as 'anti-India, anti-Hindu' by the BJP’s social media supporters — and to counter it, it can do little more than raise feeble protests.
Election after election, as it faces defeats despite trying all the caste-religion polarisation it can, the Congress, or its ‘gathbandhan’ friends, find a villain in EVMs.
Once so powerful, the ‘grand old party’ today is reduced to seeking alliances with ideologically different regional parties, pretty much at their terms, and is still getting rebuffed.
The Congress, therefore, is doing everything except what’s most crucial — introspection.
It is failing to understand that for 60 years, people voted for 'Congress, a strong political party' — not an ultra-Left NGO.
Despite all the talk of personality cults, in my opinion, today’s politics is not about one leader’s face. The 'Modi wave' is actually the result of the Sangh Parivar’s groundwork.
And where the RSS has managed to reach every home, the Congress’s reach has got limited to Lutyen’s Delhi.
The party’s Seva Dal, which used to be a strong tool to connect with people, is today almost finished.
Rahul Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, needs to understand that an ultra-Left ideology — as espoused by several of its leaders from time to time — cannot win in a Hindu-majority country.
When anonymous Modi supporters use foul language against sane voices, the Congress immediately claims the BJP leadership 'endorses' it. So when prominent Congress supporters trash Hindu festivals or rituals, how does the party expect that the BJP will not pin such behaviour on the Congress as a whole?
It’s a matter of great worry for the Congress that the BJP is raising questions over Rahul Gandhi’s identity, and the party is actually scrambling to clear up the row.
Rahul's ‘gotra’, his religion, his way of prayer — everything has become a media subject now. Who is responsible for this situation? The BJP? No, it is not the BJP. The Congress itself has created this trap it is today trying to wriggle out of.
Rajiv Gandhi's 'Indian-ness' was never questioned for marrying a foreigner. (Photo: India Today)
India is the country where PM Rajiv Gandhi married a foreigner, and was never asked such questions. Instead, he was offered all love and respect by people.
His father was a Parsi, but he was never asked to prove his Hinduism. In the Shah Bano triple talaq matter, Rajiv Gandhi was blamed for being biased and taking a wrong decision, but his Hinduism and his Indian-ness were never questioned.
So, what has changed between then and now?
The simple answer is that the Congress has changed.
On one hand, on the regional level, it got embroiled in the politics of caste. On the other hand, it allowed some of its Left-leaning members and supporters to totally dominate it ideologically.
The demise of Rajiv Gandhi made Congress an ideologically hollow party, where only the music of distorted secularism could be heard.
The idea of “secularism” in the Indian context has to be different from the way it is practised in the West. But the ultra-Left in India — many of whom are aligned with the Congress — took even the West’s idea one step ahead, totally distorting “secularism” to mean insulting the majority community’s rituals, questioning them, mocking them. They might believe that such idiocy helps present themselves as great activists fighting for the society’s progress. But they also cost the Congress hugely in terms of votes, and even credibility.
For example, even as Rahul Gandhi visits temples and local Congress leaders work hard to win people’s trust and make them understand that Congress is their party too, suddenly, we find an article criticising Hindu scriptures circulating on social media from National Herald.
Such antics obviously help the BJP’s narrative of Congress’ 'dual face' and of it being 'anti-Hindu'.
Everything about Rahul Gandhi's identity is being questioned — and his party is allowing that. (Photo: PTI)
The Congress needs to understand that if it claims to be the same party which fought for independence and was the party of Nehru, Patel and Gandhi, then it has to stick to their principles — instead of borrowing the ideology of the ultra-Left.
To retain its centrist characteristic, the Congress has to listen equally to the minority and the majority. It has to learn to create a balance among India’s diverse voting segments.
Apart from all this, the Congress of today needs to learn to rule ideologically within the party too — the 'democracy' of anyone saying anything cannot help an organisation that has to fight and win democratic elections.
In short, the Congress need to revisit its time of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. The ultra-Left was never a friend of the Congress.
Their dogged ridiculing of and opposition to the majority will only serve to strengthen right wing forces.
The Congress cannot pin its hopes of victory on the BJP making big enough mistakes. Hindus are being emotionally manipulated by both the extreme Left and the extreme Right. Many of these Left-leaning Hindu baiters are hiding under the Congress’ centrist and secular ideology. The party must stop giving shelter to them. It would stand the Congress in good stead to remember the words of a great Congress man, Pandit Nehru, “Failures comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles”.