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Not just Harish Rawat, Congress has a history of practising soft Hindutva

Geetika Mantri | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 9:39 IST

On 19 November, Uttarakhand Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat was reported to have said: "Anyone who kills cows, no matter which community he belongs to is India's biggest enemy and has no right to live in the country."

Later he appeared on news channels to claim that he was misquoted.

However, this is not the first time that the Congress has engaged in activities that are often blindly associated with the right-wing BJP. The Congress too has, on many occasions, gone out of its way to appease the Hindu voters in the country.

Rajiv Gandhi and reopening the Babri Masjjid

Rajiv _Gandhi_Getty_ Images

Photo: Getty Images

In 1986, the Rajiv Gandhi government gave in to the demands of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and ordered that the locks of the Babri Masjid be opened to Hindus.

With the Hindu-Muslim Ramjanmbhoomi conflict unabated at this point, Rajiv's move also came at a time when he was facing flak for overturning the Shah Bano judgment of 1985 in favour under pressure from Muslim zealots.

Some blame this decision for having laid the groundwork for the subsequent demolition of Babri masjid in 1992. There are others however, who claim that the kar sevaks would have taken arms up in any case. Gandhi's decision to unlock the mosque helped give Hindus' claim the upper hand.

Nothing says Indian like a holy dip

Soniya_File Photo

File Photo

In 2001, Sonia Gandhi proceeded to take a dip in the Mahakumbh mela held in Allahabad. Back then, she was the leader of the Opposition and was very much under fire from saffron sleuths who would attack her on her foreign roots - and question her 'Indianess'.

And so, the Congress supremo decided to take the plunge - the ardha snan to be precise - into the sangam or the meeting of the three holy rivers (Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati) at the Kumbh.

Sonia was all set to repeat the holy dip once again in 2007 when the Kumbh mela took place in Haridwar. The UP elections were around the corner and the Congress, facing a tough battle, hoped to earn brownie points. The dip however, did not happen due to security reasons.

Talk of another dip resurfaced in 2013, ahead of the general elections the following year. Congress spokespersons made sure to add that while there were security concerns, Sonia had "received invitations from several religious groups."

We're secular. No, really!

Congress rally Photo: PTI

Photo: PTI

A Bhajan Sandhya was scheduled to be held on the occasion of Janmashtami on 17 August 2014, at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi. The event had to be cancelled since Delhi Congress President Arvind Singh Lovely had to leave for Amritsar owing to the demise of a close kin.

The event was an implementation of the Congress' decision to celebrate all major Hindu festivals in its state committee quarters.

The Congress has been known for its lavish Iftar parties. The move to extend festivities to major Hindu festivals was an aftermath of the party having been decimated in the 2014 general elections. This may have been intended as a message to the non-Muslim populace, that Congress was willing to compromise on its "minority-appeasing" image and evolving its strategy.

When Rahul got religious

Rahul Gandhi_ PTI

Photo: PTI

In April 2015, Rahul Gandhi returned from his much-publicised and criticised "sabbatical". Soon after, he was seen visiting various Hindu religious places. While the formal stories substantiated each visit with good reason, the underlying soft-majority politics was hard to miss.

Rahul Gandhi is expected to be the next line to helm the grand old party. In an attempt to turn around the fortunes of the Congress after its defeat in 2014, Rahul was seen visiting the Kedarnath shrine on foot, performing an aarti at Mathura and visiting the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan during Radha Ashtami.

Between his attacks on the RSS, on Modi's "56-inch chest" and his religious visits, one wonders what exactly Rahul really meant when he told Congress cadres on one such visit that he had "changed" and now considered Congress not an army but his "family". Is the Congress en route becoming a happy Parivar?

While the Congress is quick to take the lead in pointing fingers at the saffron fold for propagating Hindutva, the party seems to have resorted to similar means when they were in a soup.

First published: 20 November 2015, 6:51 IST