Rahul Gandhi's recent statement, "I am reading Upanishads, Gita to take on RSS, BJP", sounds incredulous and invites ridicule, as have a number of his previous pronouncements. Yet, as someone who is still being promoted as future prime minister material, we cannot simply shrug it off as immature or thoughtless, but must make him accountable for what he says.
As a person in his late forties, long aspiring to be prime minister of India, his statement implies he has not yet studied the Upanishads and the Gita, the foundational books of India's venerable traditions of philosophy, yoga and spirituality.
What else about the country, its great civilisation and culture has he failed to learn?
Does Rahul Gandhi want to arrogate the Indian epic? Photo: PTI
Is this his first step in discovering India?
Yet most strikingly, Rahul clearly announces that he will study these spiritual teachings in order to gain political advantage over his opponents, not for any higher purpose.
The Upanishads teach serious introspection and Self-examination, including asking the fundamental question, "Who am I?" Rahul can certainly benefit from studying these profound teachings, as we all can, but for self-knowledge, not as a smart new political strategy.
Congress needs to introspect
A true leader must always be willing to introspect. Congress has been promising a new introspection after every single one of a string of electoral defeats, but this does not ever happen, largely because the heir apparent of the dynasty cannot be seriously questioned, much less challenged.
The Bhagavad Gita promotes selfless service in the defense of dharma, including the use of force if necessary to counter adharma. Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak and other leaders of the Independence movement promoted the Gita as an inspiration to the country to stand up against the British both ethically and politically, regardless of personal consequences.
Is Rahul thinking that he can arrogate this great book for the political advantage of his dynasty and political party, as perhaps some property of previous Congress leaders?
There is in his statement no true humility that real learning can arise from. We should all study the Gita for its deep wisdom, not for any personal advantage that we can derive from it. That is not Karma Yoga as the Gita teaches.
Rahul and Congress have long criticised BJP for mixing religion, namely Hinduism, and politics.
Bhagavad Gita is for everyone's wisdom.
Now Rahul is openly stating his intention to use the Hindu religion for his own political advantage. He does not mind mixing religion and politics when it suits him.
In fact, Congress has always mixed politics and religion but has preferred minority religions. Now it realises that it also needs votes from the majority religion in order to win the polls.
Rahul blames BJP for being narrow-minded and only recognising one culture and one idea of India.
Yet, the Congress still tries to reduce India to one family and one dynasty.
Hindu dharma does not need Congress or Rahul to save it from becoming narrow or regressive, or losing its universal perspective.
Hindu dharma is pluralistic, unlike today's Congress party.
Has Congress moved too far to the Left?
Congress began as the Indian National Congress of the Independence movement. After Independence was achieved, it changed into the Nehru dynasty, of which Rahul is the current representative. Now the Congress seems to have lost its connections to Indian culture and simply become just another far-Left anti-Hindu party. Its recent alliances with the CPM, SP and RJD show this, as does its support for major leftist causes from Kashmir separatists, to sympathising with terrorists and most notably for joining leftist beef fests.
Rahul's statement suggests that the Congress has realised this terrible mistake and wants to return to a more central position in India's politics and cultureby recalling India's Independence movement and its honouring of liberal Hindu thought, much like theBJP has.
Yet this turn to the centre is likely to be too late, insincere and misguided.