Risking being ‘BJP lite’ will end up making ‘Congress zero’: Shashi Tharoor – india news


Secularism as precept and practice in India is in “danger” and the ruling dispensation may even try to take away the word from the Charter, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has said, but asserted that “forces of hatred” cannot alter the country’s secular character.

Secularism is only a word and even though the government takes it out of the Charter, it would still be a secular Charter on account of its basic constitution, Tharoor told PTI in an interview on his new book ‘The Battle of Belonging’. He also asserted that the Congress party cannot risk trying to turn into ‘BJP Lite’ as it will end up making it ‘Congress Zero’ and said his party was once not offering a watered-down version of the BJP’s political messaging and the spirit of Indian secularism was once very much “alive and polite” in the grand old party.

Asked approximately his party being accused of peddling in soft Hindutva, Tharoor said he does recognise that there’s a very real and tangible concern for some liberal Indians over the issue, but asserted that “we in the Congress party are very lucid that we cannot allow ourselves to turn into a BJP-lite”.

“I have long argued that any attempt to emulate ‘Pepsi Lite’ by ‘BJP Lite’ will end up with us fitting like ‘Coke Zero’ — that is, ‘Congress Zero’,” the former Union minister said.

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“Congress isn’t BJP in any shape or form, and we must not attempt to be a lighter version of something we aren’t. Nor are we trying to, in my view,” he said. Underlining that the Congress makes a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva, Tharoor said the Hinduism that “we respect is inclusive and non-judgemental”, whereas Hindutva is a political doctrine based on exclusion.

“So we aren’t offering a watered-down version of the BJP’s political messaging: Rahul Gandhi has made it explicitly lucid that, for all his avowing his personal Hinduism by going to temples, he does not toughen any form of Hindutva, neither soft nor tough,” the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said.

Asked whether the Congress needs to speak about secularism more frequently then it has been doing of late, Tharoor said he disagrees with the assertion that the Congress has not talked approximately secularism enough and the party on each possibility has stressed its unshakeable commitment to secularism. On Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s recent dig at Chief Minister Uddhav Thackrey over secularism, the Congress leader said he did propose that Koshyari must be provided a different letterhead to express such ideas, moderately than the official “Raj Bhavan notepaper”.

On if the word ‘secularism’ in the Charter was once in imminent danger, he said, “The word is only a word; but even though the government takes the word ‘secularism’ out of the Charter, it is still a secular Charter.” In any case, freedom of worship, freedom to profess and propagate your religion, freedom of expression, minority rights, and equality of all citizens, are all a part of the basic constitution of the Charter, and they may be able to’t disappear by deleting a word, he asserted.

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“The ruling dispensation may polite try to try this: there is certainly a concerted effort to erode secularism and replace it with a sectarian way of being that offers no place to non secular minorities in Indian society,” he said.

“Secularism as precept and practice is in danger, but I do not see it falling anytime soon: India embodies tolerance and pluralism in its very essence, and I do not imagine that forces of hatred can permanently overcome our essential secularism,” he said. Alternatively, Tharoor cautioned that people will have to not let their guards down and will have to continue to oppose such regressive ideas wherever they occur.

Talking approximately the controversy over a Tanishq advertisement which showed an inter-faith marriage and needed to be withdrawn after a social media backlash, Tharoor said it offered yet another illustration of how “reactionary and bigoted sure right-wing fringe elements” have turn into, even as the ruling dispensation was once quick to distance itself from the episode.

“But let us not omit that it is a Frankenstein’s monster that they have got created, sustained through organised and vicious social media trolls, and it’s just one more reminder of the appalling power of the full-throated communal hatred that is so frequently unleashed in today’s India,” he said.

“As I have said, whether such people are so infuriated by Hindu-Muslim ‘ekatvam’, why not boycott the world’s longest-surviving symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity: India itself?” he asked.

On if Hindutva had gained mass popularity, Tharoor said the BJP holds a commanding parliamentary majority, but it has worked overtime to suppress dissenting voices and in that sense, it is difficult to receive an accurate gauge of toughen for Hindutva among abnormal Indians. Asked approximately Congress leader P Chidambaram’s recent remarks calling for the restoration of Article 370 and its criticism by the BJP, Tharoor said he has articulated his stand clearly inside Parliament.

“It’s not just an issue of abrogating 370 -– even (Jawaharlal) Nehru ji had said the provision was once a transitory one. But the Charter specifies how it is to be done,” he said.

“So though it shouldn’t matter what side of the debate on Article 370 you stand on — finally, differing voices are the lifeline of any democracy — the manner in which it was once implemented, the way our own fellow citizens were overnight clamped down upon by their own government, consciously and willfully disregarding the democratically enshrined rights guaranteed to all Indians, does not bode polite for the way forward for the country,” he said.

No political objective can justify the huge-scale abuse of the rights of Indian citizens in this manner, Tharoor said.

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