Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with the head priest Bheemashankar Ling at Kedarnath shrine on April 24, 2015 at Kedarnath (Vinay Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Everyone is free to pray to the god of their choice, but to say that the religion of political leaders does not matter betrays a delusional understanding of the actual world.

    Politics is a social activity where caste, religious and regional identities are all essential variables and can’t be wished away.

The controversy over Rahul Gandhi's name appearing in the register meant for non-Hindus at Somnath temple is morphing into a larger debate on the role of religion in politics. Left-liberals are out in full force to argue that since religion is a matter of personal choice, Rahul is needlessly attacked by the ‘communal forces’ to influence the elections. After all, how does it matter if he is a Hindu or a Christian? But this defence for Rahul Gandhi sounds not only hollow and hypocritical like all left-liberal arguments, but is also profoundly delusional for the following reasons.

First, it is actually Rahul Gandhi who has been trying to use religion as a tool in the Gujarat election with his high-profile temple visits curated for the media consumption. It is he who was trying to wear his supposed Hindu credentials on his sleeves.

Second, if it doesn’t matter then why is the Congress party desperately trying to prove that Rahul is indeed a Hindu? And it didn’t stop there. Party spokespersons was out to declare that Rahul is a ‘janaeu Dhari’ Brahmin. Perhaps in the worldview of the Congress, being any other kind of Hindu is not pure enough. Shouldn’t Rahul Gandhi openly declare his religion and end the matter once and for all? After all, there is nothing wrong with being a non-Hindu. The Constitution of India grants every citizen the right to follow any religion. And surely, people of India wouldn’t have had any problem if he and his family were open about their religious beliefs. After all, former president A P J Abdul Kalam is loved, or former prime minister Manmohan Singh is criticised not because of their religious beliefs but for their work. Why the ambiguity then, unless Rahul Gandhi has a singularly negative view of the people of India and its long history of religious pluralism and tolerance?

Third, the left-liberals argue that the religion of our politicians or representative doesn't matter, but ironically it's them who have established over the decades that religious representation matters.

Were they not always talking down the BJP about its lack of any Muslim representatives in the Lok Sabha? Were the same people not bombarding Yogi Aditynath over his religious beliefs and practices simply because he belongs to a tradition which is beyond the comprehension of our left-liberal chatterati?

The argument that religion doesn’t matter, if stretched a little further, can assume dangerous forms. Next, they might say why do Dalits and other subaltern castes want representation, how does caste matter at all? In fact, they had already done so when there were doubts raised about Rohith Vemula being a Dalit. A bizarre argument was put forth that caste is all about ‘self-identification’, thus trivialising and insulting the experiences of caste-based exclusion and discrimination faced by Dalits and their struggle against it.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at the Golden Temple, on June 10, 2017 in Amritsar (Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at the Golden Temple, on June 10, 2017 in Amritsar (Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Fourth, it is delusional to say that religion has nothing to do with politics since religion is supposed to be a private affair. While the faith of an individual may be personal but, religion is a social construct, and like any other social construct, it is political too. Religion is not a dead weight or some irrational outgrowth of pre-modern human societies. Religion is part and parcel of the human existence even if religious beliefs can be deemed meaningless or irrational on a purely scientific basis. Myths, legends, beliefs and fascination with the supernatural does play an important role in social formation and stability of the human societies, else they would not have survived since time immemorial and would not be present in every human culture and society.

In the case of Abrahamic monotheism like Christianity, the political nature of religion is even more explicit than in pagan traditions like Hinduism. The very belief in ‘one true God’ is a political construct made in the image of a universal monarch, used for the expansion of the core-demographic group of that religion, both physically and in memetic form. To view politics and religion as separated in water-tight silos is nothing more than the delusional naivety.

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Fifth, a lot of left-liberals tend to think about politics as an individual act of virtue-signalling. But politics is a social activity where caste, religious, regional identities are all essential variables and can’t be wished away. Politics will invariably interact with and involves other aspects of the human life, of which religion is a dominant one. At the base of all political dilemmas lies a moral question, a question of values. And religious beliefs of any society exert a powerful influence on the values of that society.

For example, a Muslim majority society will see the question of blasphemy very differently from that of a Buddhist majority or a Hindu majority society. This is not to say that a formal separation of ‘church and politics’ is not possible. Neither it’s about right or wrong, but about the fact that religious beliefs and politics are not exclusive.

Therefore, the contention by some people that how does the religion of any politician matter is based on the fallacious understanding of the actual world. And that is not surprising at all because left-liberals never see the world for what it is but how they imagine it to be. And that too in a hypocritical way.

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