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Congress' Soft-Hindutva Is
Destroying Pluarlism

By Kuldip Nayar

05 January, 2008
The Asian Age

Cassius told Brutus that the fault was not in
their stars but in themselves. After losing
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in a row the
Congress Party should realise that the fault lies
with them, their strategy, not in their campaign.
In both the states, it is the Congress that has
lost. The party should analyse why. I concede
that there was the incumbency factor in Himachal
Pradesh. But the same factor did not help the
Congress in Gujarat. The party has become too

I do not know why the Congress changed its
strategy not to take on the communalists in
Gujarat. Party president Sonia Gandhi rightly
characterised chief minister Narendra Modi and
his supporters as maut ke saudagar (merchants of
death). How else can they be described when they
have fattened themselves on the sufferings of and
denials to Muslims? After having effected an
ethnic cleansing in Gujarat, Modi and the BJP
continue to ostracise the Muslim community. It is
boycotted economically and socially, and is
treated in a manner that it seems as if the nine
per cent Muslim population in the state does not
exist. It is the best specimen of the BJP's best

Up to a point, Sonia Gandhi stuck to her remark
of maut ke saudagar and told the Election
Commission of India that calling a spade a spade
did not violate any code of election. But then
she herself watered down her stand. Whoever
advised her, did great harm to the party and its

Even if Sonia Gandhi had not made the remark,
Modi would have turned the polls into a
Hindu-Muslim conflict. Communalism is the only
field in which he and his kind excel. The
person-to-person propaganda against Muslims had
already begun in Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi's
observation gave Modi a chance to bring it out in
the open a day or two earlier than the timing he
had in view. The Congress needs no introspection.
It needs courage to challenge the Hindutva forces
within and outside the party. It is shirking a
confrontation with the communal forces, without
realising that at stake is our pluralistic
society, the bedrock of our democratic polity.

In fact, Modi and the BJP's ideology of Hindutva
are dividing the country into two communities,
Hindus and Muslims, or maybe three, because the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a front organisation of
the RSS, like the BJP, is also targeting the
Christians. It is a shame what the VHP did in
Orissa with the connivance of the state
government, an ally of the BJP.

Communalism is bad enough, but worse is the BJP's
attack on the ethos of our freedom struggle.
India's independence was won on the resolve to
keep it pluralistic and democratic. Muslim
leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul
Ghaffar Khan (the Frontier Gandhi) and Sheikh
Abdullah (the Kashmir Gandhi) made as much
sacrifice as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and
Sardar Patel did. Pluralism is our proud
heritage. The Congress is diluting this heritage.
For improving chances in elections it has even
embraced erstwhile BJP members. This has harmed
the Congress most.

A Pakistani friend has written to me, "The
Gujarat election debacle should open our eyes. I
mean the eyes of those who ask for vote on the
basis of abstract values and value system." I beg
to differ with him. Election is the means, not an
end in itself. Even if you may win elections
without adhering to values, you are creating a
society where there would be no elections one
day. The value system is what distinguishes a
democracy from other systems. There can be no
letting down of the fight against communalism,
because if it succeeds, fascism is bound to

Gujarat is not a state anymore. It has become an
ideology. It is a "Hindutva laboratory" as chief
minister Narendra Modi had put it when the state
went to polls. He reduced the whole campaign to a
single point: if you are a Hindu, you vote for
me. In fact, it is a slur on Gujaratis, because
he sells them Hindutva in the name of Gujarat

The development part is all right. The Gujaratis
inside or outside the state are pouring so much
money and skill into the state that a new Gujarat
was emerging despite the government. The credit
is due to him that he did not come in their way,
something which is happening in many states. Yet,
his whipping boy is a Muslim. During the election
campaign, he went on emphasising on the fake
encounter death of Sohrabbudin Sheikh, although
the case is pending before the Supreme Court of
India. At different gatherings he brought the
crowd to such a pitch of frenzy that they said in
response, "Kill him, kill him." These are fascist

I sympathise with the Gujaratis, for Modi has
fouled the atmosphere in the state so much that
any liberal thinking or dissent is difficult. He
has made them believe that India is part of
Gujarat. I heard the slogan, "Gujarat is India."
This is reminiscent of the Emergency days when
India was Indira. Modi has done great harm to
Gujaratis by mixing their achievements with
Hindutva. Their economic progress has been
dwarfed by Modi's large-size anti-Muslim bias. I
feel that Gujaratis need to be retrieved. Modi
has given them a bad name in the country and
abroad, as if they are a community of fanatics,
totally opposed to pluralistic thinking.

L.K. Advani, the prime minister-in-waiting, has
said that Gujarat will be a turning point in
national politics. He is mistaken. The turning
point is going to be the re-thinking on the part
of BJP's allies. Except the Shiv Sena from
Maharashtra, there does not seem to be any party
agreeing to BJP's Hindutva. They have, by and
large, secular credentials. They cannot go to the
voter with Modi who is the BJP's mascot.

The Congress is still learning its lesson from
Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi is a crowd-puller, but not
a vote-catcher. No use re-emphasising that Rahul
Gandhi is not making any impact. Younger leaders
in the Congress and persons like Lalu Prasad
Yadav who are on the side of the Congress might
have done better if they had campaigned.

Yet the biggest drawback with the Congress is
that - this is not in Gujarat alone - it does not
come across as an unequivocal exponent of
pluralism, as it should. The party gives the
impression of being Hindutva's soft version.
Expected to carry the ethos of the freedom
struggle, the Congress should not compromise with
the ideals. The BJP is understandably against
secularism, but a diluted, half-hearted Congress
can only do harm. It is sad that the party is not
conscious of this.

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