Why Rahul Gandhi is to blame for confusion over his Hindu identity
The Nehru-Gandhi family has deliberately avoided clearing the air over its religious beliefs.
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The Nehru-Gandhi family alone is to blame for the political row that has erupted over the "non-Hindu" entry of Rahul Gandhi into Somnath temple. It is unfair to see any political conspiracy or any form of religious intolerance in the current controversy. The family has intentionally avoided clearing the air over its religious identity, which seems to change depending on political compulsions.
There has naturally been tremendous confusion over the religious beliefs of key members of the Nehru/Gandhi family. Jawaharlal Nehru often presented himself as an agnostic and did not share the Hindu sentiments of Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Patel. Indira Gandhi, though following a more Hindu way of life, married a Parsi, Feroze Gandhi. Parsi children usually follow the religion of their fathers.
Rajiv Gandhi - with a Parsi father and a Hindu mother - married a Catholic Sonia, who nevertheless attended many Hindu rituals. Sonia kept her Catholic identity in the background and preferred to emphasise her connections with Indira Gandhi, including dressing like her and wearing a red Hindu bindi. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been described in the western media in the past as Catholics like their mother.
Rahul's religious identity is now a matter of confusion even within his own party. Rahul's media coordinator, Manoj Tyagi, listed him as a non-Hindu in Somnath temple records, while Rahul is telling us that he is a Hindu Brahmin, who wears the sacred threat and is a worshipper of Lord Shiva.
A variety of religious practices can be followed within the same family, especially over generations. However, for public figures worldwide, religious affiliations need to be stated clearly. This is particularly important in India where the Congress, under the Nehru/Gandhis, has regularly courted religious minorities for their votes and warned of Hindu majoritarianism, Hindu revivalism and even "Hindu terror", often overlooking jihad.
Nehru dynasty and temple politics
Jawaharlal Nehru's vision was of a socialist and secular modern India which was at variance from the ancient culture of Bharat or the idea of rashtra. He was not in favour of rebuilding the Somnath temple, warning of the danger of Hindu revivalism. He opposed the restoration of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, a stand maintained by all other members of the dynasty.
Rajiv Gandhi did temporarily support the cause of Ram Janmabhoomi only to quickly backtrack. Indira Gandhi, though visiting Hindu gurus, handed over India's educational system to communists and leftist ideologues, who were vociferously anti-Hindu.
Rahul Gandhi's recent temple tourism in Gujarat perpetuates the Nehru family's religious identity crisis. He is suddenly visiting temples as part of the Congress' campaign in the state, when he has rarely visited temples elsewhere. His new "public Hindu identity" reflects political necessities more than private religious beliefs.
That Rahul wants to play the Hindu card now when members of the community have reclaimed much of the dignity that the Nehru dynasty tried to rob them off is quite strange. Congress members now also claim that Nehru was actually in favour of the Somnath temple, which clearly was not the case according to historical records. The attempt to Hinduise Rahul and Nehru is being made at the same time, as part of a political strategy.
The bigger question looming over Somnath is what Rahul thinks of the Ayodhya issue and the restoration of Ram Janmabhoomi, something his party has not supported. But Rahul continues to avoid any statement on Ayodhya and it is not part of his new Hindu image.
The Congress has for long tried to prevent any consolidation of Hindu votes. Now that this consolidation has anyway happened, the party hopes to benefit from it because it has been devastated in subsequent elections.
The Nehru family had been using religion for political gain by hiding its religious beliefs and appeasing minorities, now it seems they are willing to curry political favour by suddenly appearing as good Hindus.
Today, such political charades can easily be seen through. The new Hindu image of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress reflects a lack of respect for Hindu sentiments. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress need to apologise to Hindus and not add a convenient Hindu image to their desperate new political makeover.