Differences, even confrontations, between political parties due to their philosophies are common around the world. Parties in Europe differ on immigration, the environment, religious disputes and foreign aid. However, dialogue — through think tanks and party intellectuals — is not disrupted and it helps narrow the divide. The situation in India is altogether different: Parties contend with each other on basic issues of culture and society. They also do not reflect the feelings at the grassroots. It is the articulation at the top that travels to the bottom, ignoring the collective consciousness of the Indian people.

The most recent example of this is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s attack on Hindutva in Parliament. Earlier, too, the RSS and the larger Hindu worldview on culture, society and secularism have been contested. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and others restricted themselves to the minority question. They did so to preserve a vote bank. Rahul Gandhi has gone further. He has linked Hindutva with violence. This is not a political error but a well-thought-out move. He wants to be first among pseudo-seculars. The 10 Janpath brain trust borrows ideas from the discredited Indian left and betrays its own legacy.

Abhorrence of the RSS by the Nehru-Gandhi family seems to be institutionalized now. This kills the democratic spirit. There are reasons for the present generation of the Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi, to be unrestrained their approach. The three letters — RSS — made a deep impact on Rahul in his formative years. He was groomed at a time when the Gandhi-Nehru family faced a legitimacy crisis. The Rajiv Gandhi government, despite having a two-thirds majority, faced stiff opposition from Hindutva forces over the Shah Bano case. Over time, he has been witness to the weakening of his family’s hegemony.

Rahul Gandhi’s understanding of Hindutva goes against India’s collective conscience. It is not a political ideology. It seeks the Hinduisation of post-Mughal and post-colonial Hindus, enabling them to regain their cultural identity and liberate them from a victim complex. The RSS does not propose anything new — it shares and contextualises the ideas of Hindu icons like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and RK Mookerji.

The RSS gave an organized ideological shape to the movement against pseudo-secularism, which maintains that minorities require special treatment and concessions. Instead of correcting colonial ideas, Nehru perpetuated them. This proved to be the root of many ills, including Article 370. It marked the beginning of a battle between Nehru and his ilk and the RSS. Compared to the Congress, communists, socialists and the RSS had less support. Nevertheless, it was a thorn in the side of the powerful elites due to the appeal of its ideology. This became apparent when Nehru faced “disobedience” from his own party leaders — including President of India Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel — over the reconstruction of Somnath temple in 1951. He clubbed them with the “likes of the RSS”. Nehru and Indira Gandhi patronized the Sampradayikata Virodhi Committee to work against the RSS. Its propaganda literature was widely circulated. Consequently, the minority view represented by Nehru became the mainstream ideology of the Congress.

Festive offer

Rahul Gandhi’s allies, like Lalu Prasad, know the democratic credentials of the RSS. It had been at the forefront of the JP movement in 1974 and the anti-Emergency struggle in 1975-77. The liberation from dictatorship was not due to divine intervention but a democratic struggle led by the RSS. Thousands were jailed and hundreds lost their lives. After the Emergency, the RSS returned to its non-political activities. So, Rahul Gandhi and his allies can’t make the people believe that the RSS is the enemy of democracy. Attempts to do so only hamper their credibility.

Another landmark for Hindutva that the pseudo-secular brigade is unable to accept is the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. The movement was far more than a mass mobilization for a temple. It ensured that the definition of secularism was freed from the shackles of political and intellectual elitists. The masses were the biggest participants in the debate. The Idea of ​​India found the opportunity and space to be redefined. Contemporary leadership under PM Narendra Modi played a vital role in the movement.

The current dispensation’s ideological commitment to transform India is apparent from the PM’s unapologetic commitment to spirituality. It is also seen in the celebration of figures, thus far neglected, who contributed to India’s intellectual and cultural preeminence.

The party of the Nehru-Gandhis claims Lokmanya Tilak, BC Pal, Maharshi Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and S Radhakrishnan but it fails to grasp their perspectives. Unfortunately, it is driven not by historical facts but by short-term political calculations. Therefore, it believes that the rise of Hindutva means the decline of the Congress. For decades, the Congress has not honestly discussed the expansion of Hindutva and the impact of the RSS. Nor has it passed any resolution on culture, religion and India’s past in shaping the collective worldview. It merely goes with what its leader says.

In 2008, CPM’s political document deliberated on the works of RSS affiliates like Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, Seva Bharti and Vidya Bharti, and realized the need to go beyond the electoral agenda to compete with the Sangh. However, this remains a mere document. The RSS is a reality and Hindutva is a space for nationalism and democratic advancement. Rahul Gandhi’s arguments are untenable for the Congress worker on the ground, who has to go to the people with his ideas.

Indian democracy needs more non-electoral interventions for constructive, non-extremist solutions. The RSS has never acted with vengeance. Even after false allegations surrounding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the then RSS chief MS Golwalkar allowed the RSS to cooperate with the Nehru government on the food campaign in the 1950s. Another RSS chief, Balasaheb Deoras, had regard for Indira Gandhi despite his imprisonment during the Emergency. The Indian political class needs to reflect on its relationship with studies.

The writer is a BJP Rajya Sabha MP