Strange that Kapil Sibal should seek a court-led solution to the Mandir-Masjid dispute, but only after the 2019 poll is well and truly behind us. Now that his great leader, and newly-minted party president, Rahul Gandhi has donned himself in the saffron colours complete with a janeu around his torso, and proclaimed himself to be a Shiv bhakt, we do not see how he can come second in any contest requiring nothing more than proven credentials as a devout Hindu, superior to those of the BJP’s Hindutva bhakts.

Indeed, whatever the outcome on 18 December, when the votes for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are counted, the Gandhi scion stands to profit immensely only if he persists with his Mandir-hopping spree, as witnessed in Gujarat, in the rest of the country as well ahead of the next general elections. Instead of according Parliament, the sanctum sanctorum of our republican order, priority, he should henceforth find percentage in firming up his credentials as a good and devout Hindu.

As we said in this space earlier, he need not worry about the Muslims. Wherever they have a credible third option they are bound to vote for a non-BJP, non-Congress party. Like in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. But in states where the contest is bipolar between the BJP and the Congress, per force they will vote for the latter. For Muslims, only majboori ka naam is Congress party.

In other words, even if Rahul Gandhi were to wear a loose saffron dhoti-kurta ensemble the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Ramdev sport, Muslims have no other go than to vote Congress. Therefore, it makes sense for Rahul to try and become a full-fledged Hindu, choti, janeu and all. Maybe he can throw in a Mangalbaar (Tuesday) fast as well, which offers the added advantage of cleansing the bodily systems.

Levity aside, what is really shocking is that despite the new hires in the social media department, which occasionally manages to attract attention for not so much the cleverness of the tweets but the source, it is really shocking that no one in the Congress has warned Gandhi against the dangers of aping the BJP so very crudely. To take an example from the publishing industry, Newsweek sank trying to become another Time. Whatever the Congress does, it cannot hope to out-Hindu the BJP. The saffron party has earned its Hindutva spurs by dint of years of conscious effort and hard work.

The Ram Mandir project, which so frightens the Congress that it wants it pushed back beyond 2019 by resorting to a subterfuge through the Sunni Waqf Board lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, is fully identified with the BJP. And there is no way the Congress can ever take ownership of that highly emotional vote-rich enterprise. Instead of getting impatient and trying to out-do BJP on its Hindutva plank, the new Congress boss ought to have displayed better sense and clearer strategy. Which lay in presenting the Congress as an exact opposite of the BJP, instead of being its mirror image. People tend to prefer the original than a copy. Thus, if the Congress believed that the Gujarati voter is swayed by the Hindutva, then it can forget about winning the Assembly poll, because in the popular mind it is the BJP which is identified with that amorphous philosophy.

As it is, his flippant claim to be a devout Hindu has seen several BJP leaders asking embarrassing questions. The pointed barbs directed at the newbie-Shiv bhakt aim to interrogate him on his position on the Ayodhya issue: Does he want the temple to be built on the same place where Ram bhakts believe He was born? Or does he want the Masjid to be rebuilt on the same place where it had stood on 6 December 1992, before it was laid waste by frenzied mobs?

Of course, Rahul Gandhi has no answers to offer to any of the above questions. And if he has, the Congress’ USP of being always ambiguous and undefined on most matters touching upon peoples’ lives, would stand demolished—like that disputed structure in Ayodhya a quarter century ago. Confusion on policy direction and key issues is the hallmark of the Grand Old Party. Witness how it still swears by socialism, but while in power having run its own version of a worst form of corporate oligarchy. The who’s who of the corporate world is replete with those who have become zillionaires courtesy the Congress, though officially it swears by the fiction of being a socialist party.

Fortunately, while the hollowness about its socialist pretensions was exposed a long while ago, Rahul Gandhi’s exertions in Gujarat to try and drum up support for the Congress on the shoulders of the three musketeers, each speaking for a separate caste group, has belied its tall claims about being a secular party. His father had allowed shilanyas in Ayodhya with an eye on the Hindu vote; and in Mizoram on the eve of an election promised to usher in Christian raj.

The son, no better than father, though the father had got away lightly because of a weak opposition and the absence of 24×7 media and internet, is pitted against forces which are clear-headed about the objective and know full well how to achieve it. In the absence of any talent of his own, Rahul awaits with bated breath for the BJP to slip on the electoral banana peel. The Modi-Shah duo does not seem to be in a hurry to oblige the 47-year-old Naya leader of the Congress party.

Ghar Ki Murgi Dal Barabar

Unlike the rank and file of other parties, the four-anna members of the BJP have a long-standing grievance that they are ignored by the party leadership, cutting them out of the patronage system. While the Congress had perfected a three-tier system of patronage, whereby the central leadership while enriching itself allowed the state leaders to dip into the till as well, and the latter, in turn, created generous sources of income for the street-level dadas who at election time mustered crowds and delivered votes. Since a majority of the BJP workers had RSS background, they were expected to work without expecting anything in return.

But now, with corruption creeping into the party at the middle and lower levels, workers are beginning to murmur under their breath, protesting that they are treated as slave labour, expected to organise rallies and durrie bichao while others enjoy the fruits of power.

However, the resentment is greater whenever an outsider is inducted in a key position. Recently, there were many discordant voices when BJP outsiders K.J. Alphons and Hardeep Singh Puri were appointed Central ministers.

The same angry sentiment came to the fore when the other day Sudheendra Kulkarni, adviser in the Vajpayee PMO and Advani’s nemesis, who led him to certify Jinnah a secular, tweeted: “Rahul Gandhi—India’s next prime minister. My best wishes #IndiawithRahulGandhi.” The BJP loyalists blamed the party leaders for preferring such “betrayers” to the life-long loyalists.

Mere Paas Ma Hain

Internet is a great leveller, giving everyone an opportunity to express himself. Like this gent who in the backdrop of Shashi Kapoor’s death came up with his own take on the crown prince-soon-to-be-king. Recalling the most famous Shashi Kapoor dialogue from the film, Deewar, he wrote: “Shashi Tharoor: Why can’t I become the Congress President? Mere pass experience hain, intelligence hai, oration skills hai, aur United Nations ka background Hain. Tere Pass Kya hain?

“Rahul Gandhi: Mere pass ma hain.” Amen.

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