Opposition parties have understood that they can no longer win elections by taking the Hindu votes for granted.
Of late, there has been a sudden surge of realisation within the Opposition camps that Hindu votes matter in elections. This is precisely what nationalist leaders had been saying for decades. Bal Gangadhar Tilak took the lead in consolidating Hindu support against the British and the appeasement policies the Congress followed towards the minorities, particularly the Muslims, with his public celebration of Ganeshotsav. He got dubbed as a ‘hardliner’ for his efforts. Years later, Vinayak Damodar ‘Veer’ Savarkar carried forward a similar ideology, often lamenting that the Congress, which flourished on Hindu votes, was contemptuous of the majority community’s sensitivities. He also gave a dressing down to the Hindu community for its blind devotion to parties which did little for its members. There were many others — Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Madan Mohan Malaviya, for instance — who expressed similar sentiments.
Rahul Gandhi is portrayed as a Shiv Bhakt; as the wearer of the Hindu sacred thread; as a humble pilgrim to the Kailash Mansarovar.
The RSS has been relentlessly espousing the cause of Hindu unity that cuts across caste lines and has earned the disapproval of the ‘secular’ elements. It has been variously described as rabidly communal to divisive to even anti-national. The Sangh Parivar has been condemned for raising issues such as the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site, and for exploiting religious sentiments to win elections. The mere expression of support for the Hindu community has been tantamount to communalism. A Mulayam Singh Yadav brazenly defends the death of Hindus in a police firing he ordered; a Congress-led UPA Government openly tells the court that it does not believe in the existence of Lord Ram; a Lalu Prasad Yadav finds in every supporter of Hindutva, the makings of a dangerous character; a Left leader notices nothing wrong in a bunch of people celebrating the ridicule of Hindu deities and customs.
But now, after all their fire-breathing, they appear to be coming around to the realisation that it’s time to cut their losses and reach out to the Hindu community. And so, Rahul Gandhi is portrayed as a Shiv Bhakt; as the wearer of the Hindu sacred thread; as a humble pilgrim to the Kailash Mansarovar. His whistle-stop visits to various temples during the course of campaigning for the Gujarat and Karnataka Assembly elections, has attained legendary status. More recently, a senior Congress leader told the media that his party had a Brahmin DNA.
Other opposition party leaders are not far behind. Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has announced the construction of a grand complex dedicated to Lord Vishnu adjacent to the Lion Safari in Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. For good measure, he added that the complex would have a Vishnu temple, inspired by the world-famous Angkor Vat of Cambodia. All this he would be able to do, he said, provided his party is voted to power in the State.
The game is thus clear. Opposition parties have understood that they can no longer win elections by taking the Hindu votes for granted, or by siding up to a section of the minority communities. So far, they had managed because the Hindus didn’t vote as one bloc. They still don’t, but a large section has been consolidating behind the BJP. We saw that happen in the Lok Sabha election, and even more effectively in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll last year. And, while the BJP has adopted the ‘inclusive growth’ model floated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it has kept its core voters in good humour.
Hopefully, ‘secular’ leaders will realise that being pro-Hindu is not necessarily the same as being communal (anti-Muslim)
But can this belated Hindu-love by the Congress and others, work? Only recently, Rahul Gandhi was reported to have told a gathering of Muslim leaders that the Congress was a party for the Muslims. As Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had remarked that the first right to the country’s natural resources vested with the minorities. In debate after television debates, Congress representatives have jumped to the defence of even indefensible acts of people belonging to the non-Hindu community, while questioning similar acts committed by members of the majority faith. Remember its brouhaha over the Kathua rape incident, and compare it with its refusal to side with the Kerala nun who has accused a Bishop of rape. It is the same Congress whose senior leader had once told an election gathering in Uttar Pradesh that his party would offer reservations to the Muslim community — a shocking assurance given that the Constitution does not permit reservations on the basis of religious affiliation.
Coming to Yadav’s promise of an Angkor Vat like grandeur in Uttar Pradesh, let us not forget that his remark came on the heels of an off-the-cuff statement that the State’s Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Keshav Prasad Maurya made, that the Government would bring in a Bill to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed place in Ayodhya. The Samajwadi Party chief’s promise is more of a tit-for-tat than being driven by any heart-felt devotion.
That said, it is heartening that ‘secular’ leaders have begun to understand the importance of Hindu voters. Hopefully, they will realise that being pro-Hindu is not necessarily the same as being communal (anti-Muslim) and that they will gather the courage sooner than later to unapologetically express their Hindutva credentials.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.