Playing the religious card

Shiban  Khaibri
The A .K. Antony Committee report to inquire into the causes of the historical debacle of the Congress Party in 2014 general elections , inter alia, laid bare the fact that “its proximity to minority communities had led people to doubt its secularism” . Antony is considered as a non controversial, soft spoken, honest as also a senior most Congress leader. Even otherwise also, several top leaders of the Party had been arguing in private that the aggressive pro – minority stance of the Congress Party had proved counter-productive and “when a leader like Antony expresses such an opinion, no one can ignore it.” Instead of taking a decision to review its selective policy on secularism, the prominent Muslim face in the Party, Rashid Alvi took a divergent view in not only disagreeing with the Antony led Committee recommendations on (flawed) secularism but went a step forward by saying, “Muslim community has never been appeased, they rather are the most backward and needed to be looked after (more) properly.” However, the report was never publicly discussed with intent to have a relook at the type of appeasement based or selective secularism which to a larger extent, played its part in their losing the elections.  Antony, instead  was not only led to believe that his calling a spade a spade in the interests of the party was not well taken but  the factual findings were made to go in wilderness of the pages of indistinct history of the ways of the functioning of that Party . Why not, Antony had dared to slightly have critical  but factual comments on the inaptness of the ability and the dexterity of Rahul Ji to instill hope and confidence in the rank and file of the party and not being able to take them along with a team spirit. We saw its acid test later in Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Assam and the most important elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The die seemed  cast for the Party in the state of Gujarat where cobbling with forces supportive of cast politics , ardent proponents   of further reservations in violation of the cap of 50% set by the highest court of India, Congress is campaigning aggressively to stage a comeback  after two decades. No qualms about that as in Democracy, it is their constitutional right to impress the voters in their favour and that holds good  of all political parties but the tool to woe 88% electorate in Gujarat by playing temple card and Hindu card is conspicuous by its intentions and the reasons of departure from the  political culture of Congress.  That raises many a question. So far 22 or more temples have been visited by Rahul Gandhi to pay his “obeisance” where batches of photographers are seen waiting as they stand informed in advance about the “Temple itinerary” of Mr. Gandhi.  The obvious intentions are full and broad publicity .The irony, however, is not as to why he should visit temples even if so far he has been reluctant in doing so but the fact that Hindu card is no more played by Modi Ji as he has continuously been charged with ruthlessly but, this time,  by Rahul Gandhi to win Gujarat elections. Congress stands not only in utter contradiction but appear to have walked into the trap laid in thicket by the BJP. Congress playing “Soft Hindutwa” card this time to wean away a huge chunk of Hindu votes from the BJP because of the Patidar quota agitation by Hardik Patel must, on the other hand, rattle their conventional appeasement fed vote Banks which could be tapped by the BJP now, to some extent. Many Muslim leaders on TV debates were wondering as to why not even one mosque was visited by him to pay obeisance and where had their oft claimed secularism gone? By all means, such a twist in the conventional  ” secular” policy of the  Congress party not only vindicates the stand of the majority community but by the findings of the Antony report on the causes of the poll debacle of 2014, as well.
A few days back, Rahul Ji visited world famous Som Nath temple. This temple has a history right from its reconstruction to its  opening for the public directly with his  great grandfather  as he  had not given his acquiesce to  the then President Rajindra Babu to take part in its opening nor had provided any governmental funds for its repair. Instead of, therefore, remaining extra cautious, Rahul Gandhi   reportedly had his visit recorded in a register meant for non Hindus.  Ashok Gehlot, Bharat Sinh Solanki, Sidarth Patel and other Congress leaders were with him in the temple besides Ahmed Patel. The question arises as to why only Rahul Ji and Ahmed Patel made their entries in the register (of Non- Hindus) and not others? Facing the flack as the news spread spinning of which was given on social media as well as by some Gujarat BJP leaders, Congress instead of advising Rahul Ji to clarify in simple one sentence, official and “unofficial” spokesmen of the Party came out in defence describing him not “only a Hindu but a “jenevo dhari” Hindu and a Kashmiri Brahman. Incredible as much as being  intriguingly interesting. Having visited Jammu and Kashmir many times, he did never ever meet his Kashmiri Brahman exiled community whose “progeny” he is now claimed to be , to not only tell them about his  compatriot “roots” but to know their plight. He could have visited some of the hundreds of hounded out families from Kashmir , in and around Delhi (NCR) itself even symbolically, even once  all these 27 years. He did not.
Two things emerge out of this controversy which could have been avoided . Firstly, who compelled the Grand Old Party to come out so aggressively in support of Mr. Gandhi being a Hindu and not a catholic and then, declare and so vigorously display, the “Janeo” to further and make deep rooted the claim of his Hindu religion? Secondly, has Congress Party , now shifted the goal post from G.S.T.; Demonetization, employment , development etc to counter Modi Ji and thus the BJP on who was more of a Hindu and who less? The G.D.P having made an upward surge from 5.7% as on the last quarter to 6.3% in the July- Sept quarter as predicted by the top International agencies like the World Bank etclikely to take wind off the sails of attack on economic policies.  Have back to back victories and encouraging economic results of the policies of Modi now deflated the Congress attack on economic front?  Is Congress going to contest elections in Gujarat, now on Hindu and Temples card ? Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibel has stoked another controversy and a detestable one, that Modi was no longer any Hindu thus reviving a non issue debate by attacking the faith of the Prime Minister.  This blooper from the Congress seems to be further strengthening the belief that the script was very meticulously written by the BJP for Congress party to act and do starring as “directed” by the BJP.
We are a secular country and fighting elections and impressing voters on who was from which religion and who was a “special” or the “basic” or more or less of that faith is not only against the tenets of secularism but it makes elections and the democracy appear in poor taste. Gujarati voters will shortly decide  and we shall have to watch that , of course, with interest.