Congress must firmly stand up for its beliefs

The case of Shashi Tharoor, Thiruvananthapuram’s Congress MP and an author of repute, speaking of the possibility of the emergence of a “Hindu Pakistan” in certain circumstances, has been made curious by his own party. The Congress, for some years, has turned super-cautious about stating its credo upfront — afraid that this may turn off potential voters unhappy with the BJP — and this has happened yet again.  The chance that India may become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP returned with approximately the same Lok Sabha numbers as in 2014 — as Mr Tharoor  suggested in a recent talk — is far from being an outlandish proposition.

Just look at what BJP-RSS loyalists are doing around the country with only 31 per cent of the vote. Nor is the idea put forward by Mr Tharoor a new one. It has been intellectually posited over the decades that if Hindu communalist politics overwhelmed India, we might begin to resemble Pakistan. There is nothing anti-Hindu at all in this. What the MP has criticised is the pushing of Hindu communal politics to the forefront by the BJP-RSS in light of their goal of a “Hindu rashtra”.
It’s to their credit that the BJP-RSS don’t repudiate their creed. But those of this persuasion are cleverly trying to obfuscate their political belief by suggesting Mr Tharoor has attacked Hinduism itself.

Of course he has done nothing of the kind (although as a writer and thinker he’s free to criticise anything, including religions). The BJP’s approach is too clever by half. Few are likely to be persuaded by it. Still, the Congress is running scared. It cautioned that Mr Tharoor should be careful with his words. It’s true that over a period of time the Congress has come to be regarded by some as a “pro-minority” party, meaning the party that stood up for minority communities. In fact, there are many deep-going factors for the Congress’ decline and the so-called “minorityism” is hardly one of them. But even in its most difficult days, the Congress may have looked better if in its public actions — and words — it hadn’t departed from reiterating its core beliefs and values upfront. In that event, it may have even drawn the grudging admiration of its detractors. Only too aware of the Congress’ pusillanimity of late, the BJP has asked party chief Rahul Gandhi to apologise for Mr Tharoor’s remarks. This is mischievous and childish. But the Congress’ own response should be mature, sturdy, and in line with what it stands for.

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