Secularism – Per the Congress

In my previous post, I have tried to show how the BJP’s idea of what true secularism is is deeply flawed and damaging of India’s Hindu majority. In this, I will investigate the Congress’ idea of secularism through it’s manifesto for 2009 Loka Sabha elections.

These are the references to secular and secularism I found in the subject manifesto. Unfortunately I have not found any specific Congress definition of secularism – In the absence of a definition, I will comment within the context of each reference made to secular and secularism in the hope of deducing some understanding of what secularism may mean to the Congress party.

In the segment – Preface

The Indian National Congress seeks a fresh mandate on the basis of its core values and ideology — secularism, nationalism, social justice, and economic growth for all, especially for the aam admi.

Palahalli – The word is mentioned but gives no clue as to it’s value. If taken along with the other attributes the Congress is supposed to posses one may conclude that the Congress is a secular (?) party that stands left of center in the ideological scheme of things. Since it claims to be nationalist too, I will actually rephrase and say the Congress is a secular left-center-right ideologically driven party!

In the segmentWhy Congress?

The Indian National Congress is the party that, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, established the foundations of the modern Indian nation-state with its abiding commitment to parliamentary democracy, secularism, economic development, and science and technology.

Palahalli – Perhaps it was in order that the Congress itself gives up on Gandhi. However the enthroning of Nehru as a quasi Father of our Nation is a new depth even for this party. Nehru’s so called commitment to parliamentary democracy, secularism and economic development is a sham, no less. He was basically an authoritarian who barely tolerated dissent and opposition to his position(s). His secularism took on an understandable anti-Hinduism stance. His model of economic development (??) is the reason we are in this pathetic state. Is also the reason why his own party today speaks of much needed economic reform. Nehru’s commitment to developing scientific and technological infrastructure may be admitted to.

In the segment – Congress vs BJP: Secular, Liberal Nationalism vs Narrow Communalism

The Indian National Congress’s secular and liberal nationalism has an equal place for each and every Indian. It is an inclusive vision. The BJP’s narrow and communal nationalism denies equality and equal rights to large sections of our people. It is an exclusionary doctrine.

Palahalli – This statement is false and cannot bear any level of scrutiny. The BJP does not deny equality and equal rights to any section of our people. In fact, the BJP’s definition of secularism does the reverse in giving minorities all that they seek without getting any sort of commitment in return. As to the former part of this statement and since the Congress likes to take ownership of much that India is today; it may want to explain why Hindus are disallowed from managing their own Temples and denied the same right as minorities for their schools. That’s just the start.

The Indian National Congress’s secular and liberal nationalism is founded on a celebration of India’s many diversities. The BJP’s narrow and communal nationalism rejects many of these diversities and seeks to impose an artificial uniformity on our people.

Palahalli – Perhaps this statement comes closest to defining what the Congress means by secularism. However, the BJP as made clear in it’s definition, celebrates diversity too. What is the difference? One. The Congress uses bland and pale language without any rootedness. The BJP tries to find it’s roots while using a Hindu idiom.

In the segment – Third Front – a recipe for chaos  

The Left Parties and their present partners pride themselves on being secular. On the contrary, it may be recalled that they had actively aligned with the BJP in the past.

Palahalli – I don’t know what this allegation makes of the Left. Do they stop being secular because they had aligned with a BJP-Janata Dal formation in the past? Is the measure of Congress secularism, then, that of any political party or organization that does not align with the BJP?

In the segment  – The Major Accomplishments: 2004-2009

It has restored secular and Constitutional values in governance. It has also made administration markedly more transparent.

Palahalli – What the Congress says is restored (values) is actually reversion to old habits.  To take one example, the BJP had made certain constructive changes in the Haj regime. The Congress in it’s stead reversed all clauses that it assumed would discomfit Muslims whether this was the case or not.

Takeaway – I do not see any difference with the BJP’s definition of secularism except for the fact that the BJP uses a Hindu idiom. The Congress would like to see anybody who associates with the BJP as not being secular. My reasoning is that when who is not secular is defined by association and name calling instead of by actual practice, this speaks more of similarity between the parties than that of difference. Overall affect on Hindus and Hinduism is the same. Negative.


Congress Party’s Election Manifesto

Nehru’s politics and ideological motivations

A glimpse of the charachter of Nehru’s secularism

Hindu Temples under government control

Hindus’ right to their education – Ramakrishna Mission, a case study

Congress’ retrograde but secular action on the Haj regime

– Namaste


Bhavananda says:

Dude Palahalli, I didn’t know you had a blog.

I fully endose your views on the whole sekoolar issue. As for BJP, I’ve to simply remind that BJP is still a *political* party and is expected to be politically correct. Secondly, the test of a pudding is in it’s taste. There’s a hell of difference in the way the two parties practice secularism. I agree that the current definition of secularism puts Hindus at a huge disadvantage, not to mention the insidious role of the the academics or scholars. But, one has to think of the options before blindly (or simply criticizing). I think BJP/RSS is the only way, may not be the ideal one, but still its the best.

Pala S responds:

Thanks for visiting Bhavananda!

Well, if what you say is true, then how does one give credence to anything the BJP would say? This is especially true of folks who are not “insiders”. General voters are unlike committed ones. The former want to know what the BJP stands for. If they think the BJP’s spoken and printed word is merely posturing, then the BJP stands to lose it’s credibility.

I personally don’t think this is the case. I think what is printed is in fact, facts. If and when isolated Hindu interests are taken care of by the BJP, it happens only because of committed insiders who themselves don’t take kindly to this kind of posturing by their party.

For instance, the BJP has always been crying hoarse about safeguards for Hindu educational institutions on par with that of minorities. It has always spoken against Govt takeover and control of Hindu Temples. There was an opportunity to set right the situation when it was in power. I’m not aware of any action being taken.

I agree with you that the current lot of organizations is what Hindus need to leverage in order to preserve their way of life. That only adds to the responsibility of those “insiders” who recognize and avoid unnecessary compromises for what they are so that the BJP retains its credibility.

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