An individual’s religion and culture are intrinsic to their existence, similar on the lines of a person’s home- something they will always come back to. However, there are some inherently selfish people whose ideology lies in being secular and yet, when faced with external threats, they quickly agree to accept and even preaching their religion in an entirely hypocritical manner. The grand old party is one such prime example.
Two recent developments in Congress-ruled states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are indulging in policies which are entirely different from the established public perception of the party. In Rajasthan, the Gehlot government has decided to file an FIR against Pehlu Khan for cow smuggling, 2 years after he was apparently killed by a mob in Alwar, Rajasthan. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, a couple of months ago, the Kamal Nath government had charged three people under the National Security Act (NSA). The perpetrators had been accused of illegal cow slaughter in the Khandwa town of MP. The NSA is used to detain suspects who threaten the country’s security, and this is the first time the Congress party used the act for cow protection purposes.
Cow smuggling is a serious issue in the country, which has been on a rampant rise despite legislation to the effect. Congress has often shown complete political apathy towards the cause, under their garb of secularism. However, these 2 instances are completely in favor of Hindu traditions and culture, seeing as though the cow is a revered animal in the religion. So essentially, Congress is trying to come back to Hinduism, but the question is why?
In the past, the Congress party has shown that whenever the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has faced imminent defeat, they move southward. Along with this, whenever their existence faces a threat, they quickly turn to Hinduism. There are a number of instances to this effect, enough to establish the practice as a little Nehru-Gandhi family tradition.
Observing the Congress’ Southern movements, Indira Gandhi’s name is the first to pop up. After losing her seat of Rai Bareili in 1977, Indira Gandhi decided to contest from Chikmaglur in Karnataka the next year, where the opposition was weak. During the 1980s by-poll elections, Indira Gandhi’s wariness was visible once again in her decision to contest from Medak, in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana) alongside Rai Bareili.
Sonia Gandhi, being the dotting ‘bahu’, followed Sonia Gandhi’s footsteps and contested her first elections from Bellary in Karnataka, alongside the family constituency of Amethi. Bellary was viewed as a “safe seat” for the Congress and Sonia Gandhi was fielded from there in utmost secrecy.
Keeping up with the Gandhi family’s penchant of contesting from “safe seats”, the Congress heir, Rahul Gandhi knew his defeat from his previously held constituency Amethi is inevitable, given Smriti Irani’s relentless pursuit. He, therefore, decided to contest from Wayanad, in Kerala where the majority of the population is covered under the “minority”. Rahul Gandhi had hoped the Congress’ appeasement politics would work and they had. The Congress scion lost Amethi but won from Wayanad.
Coming to setting the tradition of saving the political family from an existential crisis, again Indira Gandhi sets the path. In 1966, the cow slaughter movement had taken a massive turn with a gathering of 100,000 people assembled and demanding a countrywide ban on cows. This movement was anything but unexpected as the Hindu Right had started making a mark as a political force. A decade ago, in 1955, her father, Jawaharlal Nehru’s secularism ideals had led to the bill on a centralised ban on cow slaughter be rejected, with Nehru promising to step down if it was carried. This ensured that Indira Gandhi’s reign now, was under much threat by the growing band of right wing activists.
In order to pacify the activists, Indira Gandhi had set up a high-level committee of inquiry to look into the existing constitutional provisions for cow slaughter and their possible amendment. However, quite shrewdly, Indira Gandhi ensured that the majority of the members of the committee consisted of trustworthy Congress loyalists, who came to the conclusion that a centralized ban on cow slaughter wasn’t needed. This move had momentarily pacified the activists and had also ensured the continuance of the state’s secular ideals.
Not just this, after the split in the Congress party in 1969, Indira Gandhi’s fraction named Congress(R) was again facing an imminent threat. In order to sail over the troubled waters, Gandhi cleverly employed Hinduism and thus, the new symbol of the breakaway was that of a cow suckling its calf. This had worked marvelously; as her party had gone on to secure an overwhelming majority in the 1971 Lok Sabha election. The other faction, Congress (O) had to merge with other Right Wing parties.
The next phase of ‘Hindu resurgence’ in Congress came in during Rajiv Gandhi’s time. Following Congress’ secular ideologies (Read Muslim appeasement), Rajiv Gandhi had passed a law overriding the Supreme Court’s decision which granted maintenance to the Muslim women upon divorce. Such maintenance wasn’t a part of the Sharia law and hence the Muslim community had been immensely pleased by the legislature. The newly elected Prime Minister however, had on his hands a mass of Right Wing Hindus who were now gaining momentum. They weren’t exactly pleased with the Muslim’s personal religious practice overriding the Indian law. In order to curb this move, Rajiv Gandhi had taken the decision to open the gates of the locked Ram Janambhoomi complex for the Hindus to worship. The Mughal invaders had broken the Ram temple and built a mosque in its place, which had thereon been a sore point for the Hindus. Rajiv Gandhi thought by this move, he would pacify the Hindus and he succeeded to a great extent.
Now, the newest generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family also indulged in the same practices in the run up to the elections. Having lost the 2014 elections and given the Modi government’s popularity, even 2019 was a looming omen. The Nehru-Gandhis resorted to their pious duties. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, it had seemed that all Rahul Gandhi was doing was running from one temple to the next. His visit to the famous Thirunelli temple in his new constituency Wayanad, before he filed his nomination, had been much hyped. He had even visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This practice had been followed since the assembly elections. Ahead of the assembly elections in Gujarat in 2017, Rahul Gandhi had kicked off his campaign with a visit to the famous Somnath Temple. In the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections in 2018, he continued this charade when he visited a number of temples including the Sharana Basaveshwara Temple. The next big poll event, in the Hindi heartland states of MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Rahul Gandhi prepared by visiting the Mahakaleshwar temple in MP and the Brahma temple in Rajasthan.
In an attempt to establish himself as Hindu, Rahul Gandhi had conducted a puja in the Pushkar temple where he had enforced his identity as ‘Kashmiri Brahmin’ with the gotra being ‘Dattatreya’.
Not just the Congress president, even sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was immersed in the “soft Hindutva” narrative of the Congress. She had visited the Vindhavashini temple to offer prayers. Vadra had even stated “I have come here today to meet with the ancestors of my ancestors.”
However, since the election period is over, the Gandhis aren’t interested in meeting their ancestors or offering worship anymore; making it clear that the sudden desire to embrace Hinduism was just a façade for the elections.
Now, MP and Rajasthan are following the same traits and they have picked the most burning issue, the cow politics. The recent Lok Sabha seat count of the Congress in the state (0 in Rajasthan and 1 in MP), has left the leaders perturbed and are trying to increase their hold over the state. If the pattern holds, the party will make some cosmetic changes in their otherwise pseudo-secular policies and as soon as the electoral mandate turns slightly in their favor, those changes will thoroughly be discarded.