Dear Shri Rahul Gandhiji,
What prompted me to write this letter is the election manifesto of the Madhya Pradesh unit of your party, released by its triumvirates Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and Digvijay Singh. I can understand a party making promises, even tall ones, to garner votes but does it have to surrender its core values and compete with a party which cannot distinguish between the myth and the reality?
I would not be surprised if the ruling BJP is trounced in the election and Kamal Nath is elevated to the post of Chief Minister. Mind you, it is not because of your silly manifesto but because of the intense desire of the voters to get rid of a party under whose dispensation anyone who tried to expose the Vyapam scandal had been getting eliminated.
I understand that you were uncomfortable with some of the promises mentioned in the manifesto and that was why you refused to share the dais with the big three that day. Alas, you being the head of the Congress cannot absolve yourself of the responsibility of the scare the manifesto has created among a large section of the people who believe in the concept of unity in diversity and see the Statue of Unity as a wasteful extravaganza which makes the nation a laughing stock.
After every defeat, one standard claim made by the Congress leaders is that they would learn from their mistakes and take appropriate measures not to repeat them in the next election. In the last Gujarat assembly elections, the BJP virtually snatched victory from the jaws of the Congress. You were the star campaigner of the Congress but do you know what I remember most about your campaigning?
It is not what you said in Gujarat but your visits to various temples in the state. I trust in your word that you are a devotee of Lord Shiva. It is perfectly fine to be a believer like it was perfectly fine to be an agnostic like your great-grandfather. No doubt, faith sustains people. When ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan was hounded by the police at the behest of some of your party leaders who used the case to cut “Leader” K Karunakaran down to size, it was faith that sustained him. But he did not wear his religion on his arm as you did in Gujarat.
When Narendra Modi found that he was no more invincible, he unleashed his communal card and drove you and your party to a corner. You should have realised that communalism can be countered only by secularism, not by a softer version of the same. When a party says that it would break the head of the Muslims and the Christians, you cannot get votes by promising to break only their limbs. I am sorry if I sound a little crude.
Sometimes one has to be blunt. Take the case of the stance your party has taken on the Sabarimala issue. Are your party men any different from those obscurantist forces who assembled at the Kochi airport to prevent a woman from going to Sabarimala? Would the heavens have fallen if she visited Sabarimala like the countless, faithless people who go there clean-shaven like your Hindi-speaking Ramesh Chennithala?
I have not been able to understand what exactly is your party’s stand on Sabarimala. Does it want the silliest tradition to continue at the cost of the woman’s right to worship in any temple? What does the party want the government to do? That it should allow the thugs to determine whether a woman is 49 or 50 or a girl is 9 or 10. Is not your party like the RSS which welcomed the Supreme Court verdict and, then, turned against it in the hope of getting some votes?
Rahulji, you cannot be a hound and a hare at the same time. Either you hunt with the hound or be hunted with the hare. People respect those who stand for principles, not petty gains. There is one famous picture of your great-grandfather who raised a lathi against those who tried to attack Muslims in the wake of the Partition.
It showed Nehru’s determination to stay the course and not carried away by the mischief-makers who finally succeeded in killing the father of the nation, who under Modi’s dispensation has been reduced to a symbol of the toilet. It must be said to his eternal credit that he never compromised with the kind of people who could attack a 52-year-old woman who they thought had not reached menopause.
In my younger days, there was a weekly magazine called Blitz, which carried a sizzling, sexy picture and a monthly magazine called Debonair that provided voyeuristic delights like the Playboy, whose proprietor built up a vast business empire in the US. Now, who would buy a magazine to see a semi-clad woman when hardcore porn can be accessed at the click of a button? The point is who wants your Soft Hindutva when Hard Hindutva is freely available through government institutions?
Your party’s secular credentials began taking a beating from the time your grandmother came to power. True, she did not promote any soft Hindutva but she began to visit charlatans who masqueraded as monks. She allowed herself to be kicked by a sadhu as if the kick would transport her to heaven. People like me wondered what had happened to the scientific temperament that the Constitution had enjoined upon her to promote.
Ultimately, Indira Gandhi paid a price for hobnobbing with the Frankensteins in Punjab. The first time I saw your party openly adopting a communal line was in 1984 when the Congress under your father’s leadership engaged an advertising agency which designed a media campaign based entirely on hate as its leitmotif. For once even the Hindutvavadis were flummoxed into voting for the Congress reducing the BJP to a 2-MP party.
Unlike you, the BJP, under LK Advani, learnt its lesson and chose the Ayodhya issue to hound your father. I give full credit to Rajiv Gandhi for ushering in the telecommunication and computer revolutions but he made the cardinal mistake of hobnobbing with communal forces.
He had no business to undo the Supreme Court verdict that granted alimony to a poor Muslim woman. He did not have the political wisdom to realise that he was giving a weapon to the BJP like the axe that your favourite God Shiva gave to Parasuram with which he attacked and injured Shiva’s own son Ganapati.
Your father made yet another mistake when he sought to recompense the Hindus by opening the Ayodhya shrine that remained closed for decades. And the height of his stupidity was when he launched the Congress party’s election campaign from Ayodhya. On the stage, Rajiv Gandhi had beside him Arun Govil, who acted the role of Ram in Ramanand Sagar’s mega teleserial Ramayana. He was there wearing his costume as Ram. It was ludicrous. Did it benefit the party? Not at all.
For all the praise showered on Narasimha Rao, who picked up Dr. Manmohan Singh as his finance minister to implement his economic agenda, it was he who alienated the Muslims from the Congress by going to sleep when the karsevaks were, as planned, destroying the Babri Masjid. By the time he woke up from his unusually long slumber, the shrine had disappeared and so had the UP Muslims’ faith in your party.
When everybody thought that your grandmother would never return to power, she had the sixth sense to capture the imagination of the voter by mounting an elephant at Belchi in Bihar. In doing so, she projected the image of a defiant leader. And what did you do? After giving a reasonably good speech in Parliament, you went and hugged Modi, as if you expected his pat on your back. Why did you need his certificate?
Do you know that you are a very privileged political leader? Here, I am not referring to the dynastic traditions in the Congress. Modi has been giving you ammunition after ammunition. His failures to give every citizen Rs 15 lakh each, create the number of jobs he promised, bring down the prices of petroleum products and arrest the decline of the rupee against the dollar are enough campaign material.
The demonetisation which ruined the life of millions of people, the Rafael aircraft deal that involves a potential fly-by-night operator and the wasteful spending on a statue which would let the birds desecrate the “steel man”, who has been reduced to a “bronze man”, are sufficient in the hands of a good opposition to strike the nails on the Modi government’s coffin.
What’s more, Modi has given you a deadly weapon when he recently launched the 59-minute-loan scheme. The kingpin of the scheme is a Gujarat-based company which had a business worth Rs 15,000 in 2017 and worth Rs 0 in 2016. In the name of application fee alone, the company can rake in billions and billions of rupees. The 2G scam pales into insignificance before this scam but you are silent. After ruining the CBI’s autonomy and credibility, Modi and Co. are all set to destroy the Reserve Bank’s image as the formidable bankers’ bank.
All this after Modi gave the most distinguished status to an educational institution that is still in the realm of imagination. Yet, you do not find these subjects good enough to turn the tables against him. Instead, you want to promise the electorate in Madhya Pradesh that you would start cow urine and cow dung factories in every district in the state. Ask your colleague Kamal Nath, who, I am told, has already got his dress stitched for the oath ceremony, how many jobs this would create.
I do not know about MP but I know about Haryana where the anti-cow slaughter law is the strictest. I am ready to travel with you in Haryana and show you that cows are fast replaced by buffaloes because the farmers cannot sell the bullocks and barren cows to the butchers. Sooner than later, there will be no cows in Haryana, save in a museum. Your manifesto promises cow-sheds in all villages. Will the state feed the cows or, like in Bihar, the contractor-politicians will eat all the fodder?
What will the "adhyatmik vibhag" (spiritual department) that you promises will do in the state? Your manifesto hints that it will promote Sanskrit. What has that to do with spirituality? If I write that “you are a fool” in Sanskrit, it may sound very philosophical but it would still mean “you are a fool”.
Yes, Sanskrit is a great language. For your information, Germany produces better scholars in Sanskrit than India. They study it because they love the language. Our people study it to fool the gullible and get jobs.
You have promised to develop “Ram Path”, the route Ram and Sita had taken in Madhya Pradesh during their 14-year exile. You can see in Kerala how one temple in a forest has been creating so much tension. How does your party know which route they had taken?
Again, you want to spend hundreds of crores of rupees on keeping the Narmada clean. To start with, can you promise the nation that if you are elected, you will not allow anyone to throw their religious waste like the Puja idols into the river?
Your father had spent hundreds of crores of rupees and the Modi government has spent thousands of crores of rupees on cleaning the Ganga. Has the Ganga become clean?
Water has the great quality to clean but in the process of cleaning it becomes dirty. The fire also cleans but it does not become dirty. That is why Hindus worship fire more than water. All rivers, including the Ganga and the Narmada, are sacred and they need to be kept clean.
I saw how clean the river San Antonio in Texas in the US is, on a recent visit. It flows through the city. The Riverwalk is a great tourist attraction. No, Texas does not have a “Maa Narmada Nyas Adhiniyam”-like set-up to keep San Antonio clean. However, it has laws that prohibit people from throwing their waste into the river. If you can rid the state of superstitious beliefs and educate the people about the need to keep nature in its pristine form in their own interest, there will be no need for any Adhiniyam.
Before I conclude, let me give you a small piece of advice. Please read Nehru’s “Discovery of India” and “Glimpses of World History” which will provide you a better understanding than what you learnt at our common friend Jagdish Kaushal’s centre. As a politician, you will also be enriched if you read the not-so-parsimonious letters Nehru wrote to the chief ministers. Then you will know that principles matter more than politics.
Try to restore the pan-India appeal of the Congress that brought all sections of the people under its umbrella to send the British packing. We need such unity to send those who want to convert India into a theocracy like Pakistan to a perpetual vanvas. Are you game for this, dear Shri Rahul Gandhiji?
(Published on 19th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 47)