Saturday, December 2, 2023

Rahul Gandhi- confronting Hinduism before gearing up for the battle

By MR Lalu

Irrespective of their show of confidence and the display of unity, the opposition parties in India are still short of credible reasons to peel the popularity of the prime minister away. I suspect this trend is only likely to continue. Every allegation and outcry against the government and its leader left the electorate with a question as to who in the opposition alliance is capable and credible enough to counter the prime minister. A void deep and difficult to fathom is felt by the common man. Though cherishing moments of unity have been exhibited by the I.N.D.I.A block, at present, there is no leader influential enough to replicate the prime minister’s persona and political positioning. His initiatives for a decade set visible success bars probably beyond the reach of the warlords in the opposition and he, throughout his tenure maintained the image of a true nationalist, an emotion that he has been using to cement his essence and presence as a leader among people. Transforming the country with more takers leaning and supporting the Indian Nationalistic brand of politics, the Modi fiefdom is all set to sustain if not expanded. Has the I.N.D.I.A block a chance to change the tide in its favor?

Let us check the other side. On the Congress side, which is the principal opposition, is Rahul Gandhi, the only leader with a national clout. Rahul Gandhi’s unpredictable intellectual makeover is sometimes staggering.  I was literally gobsmacked, obviously I was, when I flipped through his article ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ (Indian Express –October 1) which had nothing to call him a politician. The entire literary expression in the article seemed to be his philosophical tutoring painted in colorless letters. Why was it necessary for the Congress leader to come out with an article that explained his understanding about Hinduism? Was that probably to build a counter narrative that he   thought was required to defend his colleague in Tamil Nadu, the DMK, whose political fracas created a lot of hubbubs across the country? Overwhelmingly philosophical, the article takes you through certain intellectual twists and turns but it ultimately lands you on a smoggy terrain with the visibility reduced to plain puzzlement. But in some areas, the philosopher in him encounters flashes of reality about Hinduism. This means, he has obviously captured a fraction of the gist of what Hinduism is.

“To call Hinduism a set of cultural norms is to misunderstand it. To bind it to a particular nation or geography is to limit it. Hinduism is how we mitigate and understand our relationship with our fears. It is a path towards the realization of truth and though it belongs to no one, it is open to anyone who chooses to walk on it.” Scribbling these lines Rahul Gandhi has gone beyond his normal intellectual boundary and tried to encapsulate Hinduism in its spiritual realm. Undoubtedly, Hinduism does not exist in a set of rituals and cultural norms alone. It takes a real practitioner through various paths of seeking the truth and a true seeker ultimately lands on the territory of unlimited joy with his inner spiritual splendor unfolding to its absolute potential. Hinduism is an open path with an access to anyone, as rightly Rahul Gandhi says, irrespective of the identity of the seeker. “In the ocean of life everyone would swim for some time and drown. Realizing this reality of life, a true Hindu looks at himself and others with love and compassion and respect.” These lines have a political connotation as well. These lines in his article and his statement at the Sciences Po University in Paris need to be taken together for a better view of his political admonishment. Criticizing the RSS and the BJP, Rahul said, “I have read the Gita, a number of Upanishads; I have read many Hindu books but there is nothing Hindu about what they do.” Exercising an intellectual ambush on his political rivals, Rahul Gandhi was deliberately trying to separate the Hinduism he experienced with his spiritual firmness from the Hinduism that the RSS –BJP combo politically propagated.

Rahul Gandhi unequivocally accepts Hinduism as the religion of peace, truth and non-violence. This is an explicit expression of his party’s duplicity as well. Let us examine it. Most of the values that Hinduism is known for such as truthfulness, righteousness and compassion have come from its epics and Vedic lore. Hinduism flows from the values embedded in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Lord Rama and Ramayana, the religious text depicting his life of supreme values form the core of India and Hinduism. The Hindus believe a life devoid of the values enshrined in these epics would be meaningless. So was the significance of Ram temple for the Hindus in his birth place in Ayodhya.  Their fight for the temple was long and consistent. But the Congress in 2009 when it was in power filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court questioning the existence of Lord Ram, probably resulting in the Congress to be buried in the minds of a large section of the Hindu population giving the history an unprecedented turn in 2014. Excavating its duplicity further, the Congress came up with the ‘Hindu Terror’ narrative that the party set to confront a possible upsurge of a majority which began to disfavor its vote bank gimmicks. The grand old party thought to satiate its minority vote bank by fabricating a right wing terror.

Drilling back in history, what we find is more examples of the Congress duplicity. The UPA government’s Sethusamudram project began in 2004 proposing to create a shipping channel by dredging a walkway connecting India and Sri Lanka. The Hindus believe that the bridge Ram Setu was built by Lord Ram as he proceeded to Lanka to retrieve Sita from the clutches of demon-king Ravana. The UPA government in its affidavit in the Supreme Court stated that there was no historical proof of the structure being built by Lord Ram. By doing this, the government and the Congress had questioned the existence of Lord Ram. Undoubtedly, Rahul Gandhi’s discovery of a Hindu in his article was accurate. “A Hindu is humble and is always ready to listen and learn from any being that swims in the great ocean of life.” Throughout the course of its history this was the reason why Hinduism never entered into a dispute with any other religion but suffered acrimony and religious barbarity from external forces.  Politically speaking, the historic mistake of the Congress party was that it took the humility of the majority as its weakness and ideologically failed to recognize what Hinduism stands for. The compassion, truthfulness and love that the religion holds to its bosom were never recognized by political parties as they were compelled to genuflect to collective vote banks. Scenario changed when Narendra Modi turned the course of the wind. Continuous failures and its falling into political insignificance and oblivion is the reason why Rahul Gandhi and his party turned to their soft Hindutva pedalling. But Congress, being the political opposition of Modi, needs to know where the shoe pinches. Modi has calculated it long ago and he knows where to mend.  With his ideology, governance and vision making a perfect amalgam for electoral victories, his Hindutva plank would further intensify his momentum.

(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)

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