For a party whose tallest leader Jawaharlal Nehru declared that he was a Hindu by accident, and was almost contemptuous of such an accident happening to him, the Congress has come a long way. Today its leaders are busy demolishing the Hindu credentials of their rivals, while certifying their own. In the process, the party has also taken it upon itself to determine what Hindu and Hinduism mean. While Rahul Gandhi has taken the lead in this rather abrupt scholarly exercise, his minions are not far behind. The Congress now even has a resident Hindu expert, Shashi Tharoor.
The rush to appear Hindu, sound Hindu and demean Hindus from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS has so consumed the Congress that the party has lost track of other issues. This has suited its rivals well. Those who belong to the ‘secular’ camp are gleefully proclaiming that the Congress’s communal face has come to be displayed and that its talk of empathy for Muslims has been hollow. The BJP, on the other hand, is glad to take on the Congress on its home ground — the Hindutva turf — and showcase its rival’s pretentiousness.
Frankly, Rahul Gandhi and his warriors have none to blame but themselves for the misery. They plunged deep when they ought to have waded with caution. The Congress president recently told a gathering in Rajasthan during an election campaign: “What is the essence of Hinduism? You please study Hinduism. What does the Gita say? That knowledge is with everybody, knowledge is all around you… Our Prime Minister says he is a Hindu, but he doesn’t understand the foundation of Hinduism. What sort of a Hindu is he?” Coming from a scholar, these remarks would have been profound; coming as do from Rahul Gandhi, they are laughable.
Does Rahul Gandhi know the essence of Hinduism? Has he studied Hinduism? Has he read and understood the Gita? And what in his view is the foundation of Hinduism? Religious and spiritual leaders since ages have been grappling with the enormity of these questions, and layer after layer has been unravelled as one brilliant mind after the other has sought to grasp the philosophical nuances of the Hindu faith. Since the Congress chief is demanding answers to questions he has raised, one must assume that he has some answers at the very least. If that is the case, it’s time to hail him as the greatest thinker of Hindu thought the country has produced in the 21st century
But of course Rahul Gandhi is a fake Hindu. When asked for his gotra at a temple he visited days ago while canvassing for his party in Rajasthan, he mumbled, “Dattatreya”. That is the gotra of Kauls from Kashmir, and the temple priest appeared satisfied with the answer, later saying that a long list of Rahul Gandhi’s ancestors, including Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru, was in his possession to establish the gotra.
All that is fine, but the great Hindu that he is, Rahul Gandhi should have known that the gotra (roughly translated as a ‘clan’ within a particular caste) is generally identified with a set of male family members who are descendants in an unbroken line from a common male ancestor. Rahul Gandhi’s association by gotra with the Kaul lineage was broken with Feroze Gandhi (a Parsi) becoming his paternal grandfather. By claiming a gotra for himself, he has sought to be identified as one of the progenies of the seven Hindu saints (Saptarishis) mentioned in the Upanishads.
It’s ironical that the Congress president has been so keen to flaunt a gotra that he can only dubiously lay claim to, while he refuses to acknowledge the paternal lineage from his grandfather. Or maybe it’s not that ironical, given that there is no political gain in the latter and some to be had in the former. That his latest declaration should have resulted in mirth and more ridicule, is not surprising. Incidentally, Rahul Gandhi’s cousin Varun has been more honest in this regard — his official name is Varun Feroze Gandhi.
The Congress’s display of Hindu credentials — Rahul Gandhi wears a sacred threat; he is a Shiv bhakt; he made a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar; the party has Brahmin DNA, et al — dissolves in disbelief in the backdrop of other developments. Not too long ago, the Congress had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, questioning the very existence of Lord Ram. More recently, its leaders coined phrases derogatory to the Hindu faith — Hindu Taliban, Saffron terror, Hindu terror etc. Behind closed doors, its leaders talk of securing 90 per cent of Muslim votes to win elections; the Hindus then wouldn’t matter. Only months ago, the party tried to tear away the Lingayat community from the Hindu faith and accord them a minority status in Karnataka. One of its leaders had even claimed that the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai had been executed by extremist Hindu groups. Need one say more on the Hindu credentials of the Congress?