New Delhi, Nov 13.
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Salman Khurshid may not be wrong in distinguishing Hinduism of the seers and sages of ancient India and the “political” Hindutva of the BJP/RSS, but he has stirred a hornet’s nest by comparing Hindutva with radical jihadist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. The BJP could not have wished for more on the eve of the assembly elections in UP and four other states early next year. With Rahul Gandhi ostensibly backing Khurshid, the controversy is bound to snowball.
The flip side is that Khurshid’s book ‘Sunrise over Ayodhya’ will become popular in public imagination which any author will relish. It is another matter that the Congress party may be on the receiving end so far as UP elections are concerned.
The BJP and its followers have already begun to rake up the issue in various forums possibly to keep it alive till the elections at least. Some have threatened to go to court. Others have demanded a ban on the book. In all this, one can see a pattern—it should not be made to die down. Soon, the BJP leaders will bring it up in election meetings in the poll-going states, especially in UP, in order to polarize voters along communal lines. This is unfortunate. An author’s perception needs to be respected. But these are not ordinary times. Neither is Khurshid an ordinary writer, being a died-in-the-wool Congressman.
The book has implications even within the Congress party. Among the first to differ with Khurshid is his senior party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad who openly said it was wrong to compare Hindutva with jihadist organizations. He runs the risk of being further sidelined now.
It is common knowledge that the BJP has thrived on Hindutva politics, especially in the Hindi heartland. UP has been its mainstay and Ayodhya is the fulcrum. The party gained momentum only after the Ayodhya demolition in 1992. There has been no going back since. A grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will soon be a reality after the case in the Supreme Court went in favor of the Hindus. Ayodhya is linked to millions of Hindus in the country who see Lord Ram as God incarnate. There is no doubt that the Ram Mandir construction will be fully exploited.
The BJP will employ its full might in UP via which it aims to retain power at the Centre in the 2024 parliamentary polls. Home Minister Amit Shah made this point in his daylong interactions with party leaders and workers in UP yesterday (Nov 12).
The Yogi Adityanath Government in the state is doing everything it can to retain power even though there is widespread disenchantment among voters, according to reports. The party’s election machinery will soon be descending in full force once a formal announcement of the election schedule is made by the election commission.
As an author of the controversial book, Salman Khurshid has every reason to rejoice, his party colleagues’ discomfiture , notwithstanding. In any case, the Congress has marginal stake in the state.