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The Hindu trump - The Times of India

Editorial ()
January 19, 1999

Title: The Hindu trump
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 19, 1999

Some time ago George Mikes, the Hungarian-born British writer,
published a tongue-in-cheek bestseller arguing that, ultimately,
everyone in the world was a Hungarian. In a political reprise,
Sonia Gandhi's Congress has formulated the proposition that
everyone is basically a Hindu, if one understands Hinduism to be
the all-sheltering sky of eclectic humanism as embodied by one
of the greatest Hindus - and Indians - who ever lived - Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi. The Congress move is a shrewd political
ploy, but one with many potential pitfalls. The appeal to 'soft
focus' Hinduism is in direct competition with the sangh
parivar's brand of hard core Hindutva, which many - Hindus and
non-Hindus alike - are beginning to view with alarm for its
increasing emphasis on rigid exclusivism. By playing the Hindu
trump, the Congress hopes to counter the parivar's bid to equate
Mrs Sonia Gandhi's Christian background with an alleged 'un-
Indianness'. Such an equation is of course totally repugnant to
both the letter and the spirit of secularism as enjoined by the
Constitution. Secularism, however, has of late become a
politically compromised address - thanks to factors which have
nothing whatsoever to do with Mrs Sonia Gandhi's antecedents -
and the Congress seems to have decided to approach its non-
denominational destination via the diversion of a broad-based
'humanist Hinduism' which is all things to all Indians. This
'muddle path' also finds an apt parallel with the Congress party
itself, the grand old matriarch of almost all political
formations in the country. The proposed all-accommodative
Hinduism is, in fact, a kind of 'spiritualised Congressism'.

On a more down to earth level, the party obviously calculates
that such Hinduised Congressism will pay immediate dividends by
way of electoral arithmetic, particularly in the so-called Hindi-
Hindu heartland which is currently polarised between hard-nosed
Hindutva and the equally belligerent brand of secularism as
propagated by the two Yadavs, Mulayam and Laloo. In retrospect,
it makes eminent sense that Mrs Sonia Gandhi should have
determinedly refused to tie up with either of the Yadavs or the
Left parties for short-term political gain. Had she at that
time given in to pressure, the Congress today would have been
forced into a position where it retaliated word for word to the
sangh parivar's deliberate provocations. Indeed, that appears
to have been the latter's calculation - to show up Mrs Gandhi as
a partisan leader by pushing her into "siding with the
Christians." The Congress's new strategy, on the other hand,
aims to achieve the opposite, the stress on Hinduism helping to
recapture the upper caste Hindu vote and the security offered by
the promised healing touch luring in the estranged Muslims. lie
testing ground for the new formula would, of course, be Uttar
Pradesh, where the Congress is already engaged in bringing about
the collapse of the Kalyan Singh government. However, the
Congress would do well to bear in mind the grievous price that
both the party and the country had to pay in the past because of
mixing politics with religion: Indira Gandhi's attempt to split
Sikh solidarity through Bhindranwale and its tragic
consequences, and Rajiv Gandhi's alternative flirtations with
Hindu and Muslim sentiments which cost him dearly at the
hustings. Whether the Congress's present requisition of
Hinduism for political mileage works as a trump card or, in
fact, sounds the last trump for secularism, only history will
tell.


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