Monday, November 23, 2009

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Gandhi’s communal child: Congress


It is accepted as a truism that BJP was behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid and Gandhis, who took political sabbath after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination were the hapless secularists, mourning the demolition. So much so that in the run up to the UP assembly elections in 2007, Rahul said that had a Gandhi been at the helm of affairs in 1992, the demolition wouldn’t have happened. It was immediately seen as criticism of PV Narsimha Rao, then Prime Minister of India by Rahul.

However, a mere look-see of history would have deterred Rahul from making such a statement.

As history would have it, Rajiv Gandhi was the one who, in 1986, recognized the political potential of Hindutva, long before Advani envisaged its gains.
In the Indian context, the ‘other’ was located in Pakistan: during the Khalistan movement and the Assam separatist movement, Indira’s Congress had held that Pakistan Government had perpetrated these secessionist movements, wishing to avenge Bangladesh.

The two identities became antithetical when Babri Masjid was opened for the worship of the Ram Lalla idol by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Until then, the sadhus were only allowed to enter the Masjid premises once in a year and worship in the temple they called Ramjanmabhoomi.

In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi allowed the Hindu Sadhus and Mahants to perform Shilanyas (foundation laying ceremony) on the disputed site. With the UP assembly elections just a few days away, Rajiv Government dispatched Union Home Minister Buta Singh to oversee ‘Shilanyas.’ Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991 and Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to join politics removed the Gandhis from the helm of Congress for sometime.

Till 1987, Hindutva had not featured anywhere in BJP’s resolutions or party literature. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Jan Sangh, BJP’s parent party, had further distanced itself from the ideology of the Hindu Mahasabha. In fact when Prachajanya, RSS’ organ questioned Advani over the dilution of the ideology. Advani said that the party’s appeal will only increase to the extent the ideology is diluted.

It fought the 1984 general elections on its “Five Commitments” - “nationalism and national integration”, “democracy”, “positive secularism”, “Gandhian socialism” and “value-based politics”. The elections saw the decimation of BJP, with the party winning only two seats in the Lok Sabha.

In the following years, the BJP realized that the “Five Commitments” had confused the political workers of BJP, the RSS cadres. At the same time it realized that Congress had been successful by playing the Hindu nationalist card. Therefore, at its National Executive Committee meet at Palampur in 1989, BJP adopted the Babri Masjid issue as an election issue. BJP added 85 seats to its tally in the 1989 elections.

When influential leaders like Rahul Gandhi make ahistorical statements, it becomes important to skim over history to save it from political adaptations.

Related article: Soft Hindutva is a part of Congress tradition