Can BJP counter Rahul’s attack on Savarkar?
Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Savarkar have certainly surprised many. No one had anticipated that in his last leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra, he would take on the RSS and the BJP in this manner. His attack becomes all the more significant for having come at a place that is very near the RSS headquarters at Nagpur. He has attacked the Hindutva icon earlier also, but the current remarks have been made at a time when the Congress is in alliance with the Shiv Sena which is closely aligned to the ideology of Savarkar. Obviously, it has embarrassed the Uddhav Thackrey faction of the Shiv Sena at a time when it is struggling to survive the biggest split in its history. This is the point that is baffling for political analysts.
However, a close look at Rahul’s move of targeting Savarkar, alternatively the RSS and the BJP seems to be in tune with the unfolding political developments in the country. Rahul has articulated his interpretations to suit the immediate political requirements of his party. The Congress is amidst a fierce electoral battle in Gujarat and is struggling to keep its mass base of minorities, tribals, and Dalits intact. This could only be done by directly attacking communalism. In his rally, Rahul compared Birsa Munda, the great martyr of Jharkhand, with Savarkar and asserted that the latter begged for mercy, while the tribal icon stood up against the British and sacrificed his life. The comparison, certainly innovative and opens a new way to look at the history of the freedom movement.
The angry BJP has tried to defend Savarkar. However, it is weak in its arguments. In order to prove that there was nothing wrong with sending mercy petitions and begging for release, the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra has quoted Mahatma Gandhi, saying that he had also addressed himself as a servant of the empire. This analogy could hardly survive. Gandhi never asked for any mercy and always demanded the strictest punishment. He always pleaded guilty. The same is true for all the revolutionaries and freedom fighters. The case of Bhagat Singh is classic. The great martyr had requested that he be executed as a soldier for waging war against the empire.
Some political analysts are speculating about Uddahav Thackrey’s departure from the alliance. The Eknath Shinde faction is pleased with the developments and expects Uddhav to pick a fight with the Congress. However, it is highly improbable. He has distanced himself from Rahul’s statement and reiterated the demand that Savarkar be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour.The Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar also differs with Rahul on Savarkar. However, it is insufficient to have an impact on the alliance.
Rahul might be looking for a broader social alliance of Dalits, minorities, and backwards. In Maharashtra, he has invoked Shivaji, Phule and Ambedkar. In addition to it, he seems to be working at creating a larger narrative of secularism. He is countering the RSS’ assault on the history of freedom struggle when he says that Savarkar’s ideology of Hindutva is in contradiction to the ideology of freedom struggle.
The Congress desperately needs a larger secular narrative at the national level. Rahul’s direct attack on Hindutva, as well as associating it with the legacy of social icons, will help him revive its support among Dalits, backward castes, and minorities. The Congress must appear as a party that can effectively combat Modi and the BJP.
Rahul’s remarks can also be analysed in terms of the ideological changes Congress is currently undergoing. Rahul’s stance is a departure from Congress’ earlier stand on Savarkar. Savarkar was accused of involvement in the conspiracy for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and was acquitted for lack of clear proof. However, Congress has refrained from targeting him all these years. The Indira Gandhi government even issued a postal stamp, and Savarkar’s story formed an important part of textbooks during her time.
On the other side, the RSS and the Jansangh, the earlier version of the BJP, extended only a lukewarm acceptance to the legacy of Savarkar until the 1970s. Savarkar was never an inspiration for the RSS during the leadership of MS Golwalkar and BhausahebDeoras. It is said that Golwalkar never liked Savarkar. However, the party slowly adopted him. In the Modi era, Savarkar has become the main inspiration for the RSS and the BJP. The change in the stance of Congress towards Savarkar is a political necessity in the circumstances that have emerged after the demolition of Babari Masjid at Ayodhya. Savarkar’s ideology aggressively endorses the curtailment of minorities’ rights.
If Congress has to take on the BJP’s communal policies, it has to abandon its neutrality towards the ideological advance of the BJP. Rahul has honed his attack by drawing parallels between Savarkar’s and Gandhi’s ideologies. He says that Savarkar surrendered to the British government out of fear. He says fear generates hatred and violence. Could the RSS and the BJP sustain their defence of Savarkar? So far as the facts are concerned, this is difficult. Savarkar is perhaps the only celebrity who tried an image makeover by writing his own biography under a different name. It remained unknown to the world for many years that his biographer, Chitragupta was none other than Savarkar himself. He also acquired the expletive “veer” (brave) on his own. It is really strange that even after his mercy petitions came to light, the Hindutva forces never shied away from eulogising him.
Courtesy : Bbizzbuzz
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