Be they leaders from the main opposition and Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress or fringe parties such as Om Prakash Rajbhar-headed Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), all have been contributing to polarising the already communally charged political atmosphere of poll-bound UP.
On the one hand the opposition parties label UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath as a hardcore Hindutva leader and a polarising figure but on the other hand they are now being seen competing with him and only further communalising the politics.
Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Hindutva
One of the latest controversies has been triggered by senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid who has compared Hindutva with jihadi Islamist and terror organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram in his newly-released book ‘Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times’.
A para in the book’s chapter ‘The Saffron Sky’ reads: “Sanatan Dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints were being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram of recent years.”
This has generated a lot of heat with not just the rival BJP but also leaders from the Congress and its ally Shiv Sena rejecting Khurshid’s analogy.
The controversy is likely to have a bearing on the UP assembly election, likely to be held in February-March next year because Salman Khurshid is a prominent Muslim leader of the Congress from the state.
Another Muslim leader from the party, Ghulam Nabi Azad, differed with Khurshid’s point of view. He said, “We may not agree with Hindutva as a political ideology distinct from the composite culture of Hinduism, but comparing it with ISIS and jihadist Islam is factually wrong and exaggeration.”
Shiv Sena, which is Congress’s alliance partner in Maharashtra, took a strong exception to Khurshid’s writings. In a tweet, Shiv Sena Rajya sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “A book comparing Hindutva to terror outfits ISIS and Boko Haram is an attempt to demonise Hindu religion that has only spoken of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Half baked information can get your book publicity but unnecessary consequences of hurting sentiments of millions of Hindus. Shame.”
A book comparing Hindutva to terror outfits ISIS &Boko Haram,is an attempt to demonise Hindu religion that has only… https://t.co/7Qx53jCUmB
— Priyanka Chaturvedi🇮🇳 (@priyankac19) 1636619596000
The BJP, while launching a frontal attack against Khurshid, demanded Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to sack him from the party.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said the remarks not only “hurt the sentiments of Hindus but also deeply hurt the soul of India”.
“Hinduism was compared to ISIS and Boko Haram. Congress is weaving a web like a spider against Hindus… All this happens at the behest of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Earlier, the term ‘Hindu terrorism’ was invented in the Congress office,” Bhatia said, adding: “Due to the politics of hatred of Congress, the public will teach a lesson in the assembly polls to be held in 5 states next year.”
He also exhorted Sonia Gandhi to explain Khurshid’s remarks “if she respects Hindus”.
In-charge of BJP’s national information and technology department, Amit Malviya, asked whether Khurshid had made the comparison to garner Muslim votes? In a tweet, he said, “Congress’s Salman Khurshid in his new book writes that Hindutva is similar to the jihadist Islamist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. What else can we expect from someone whose party coined the term saffron terror just to draw equivalence with Islamic jihad, to get Muslim votes?
Congress’s Salman Khurshid in his new book writes that Hindutva is similar to the jihadist Islamist groups like ISI… https://t.co/lYhjiKyXvs
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) 1636548630000
In another tweet, Malviya delved into the past to remind Khurshid’s controversial views about the Hindus and Sikhs. He said, “Salman Khurshid [in his book: At Home in India] on the 1984 Sikh genocide: ‘There was also a terrible satisfaction amongst Muslims, who had not completely forgotten the Partition’s unpleasant aftermath. Hindus and Sikhs were alike paying for their sins.’ The bigotry runs deep.”
Salman Khurshid [in his book: At Home in India] on the 1984 Sikh genocide: “There was also a terrible satisfaction… https://t.co/D7AH8GBJfu
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) 1636703168000
Two Delhi lawyers Vivek Garg and Vineet Jindal have filed complaints with the Delhi Police against Khurshid for allegedly defaming Hindutva.
Akhilesh Yadav on Jinnah
On November 31, 146th birth anniversary of India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav compared Pakistan’s first prime minister Mohd Ali Jinnah with Indian freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel. “Sardar Patel, Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and (Muhammad Ali) Jinnah studied in the same institute and became barristers. They helped (India) get freedom and never backed away from any struggle.”
UP CM Yogi Adityanath came down heavily on Akhilesh calling his remarks a “shameful” display of “Talibani” and “divisive” mindset. Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya called the SP chief “Akhilesh Ali Jinnah” and his party as “Namazwadi Party”. UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh said Yadav must have “burnt crackers” after watching the recent T-20 India-Pakistan cricket match.
SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar defends Akhilesh
SBSP, which recently forged an alliance with SP for the 2022 UP assembly election, was also under attack from the BJP for its chief Rajbhar’s controversial remarks.
Rajbhar sought to defend Akhjilesh Yadav’s remarks on Jinnah. On November 10, he said “Had Jinnah been made the first prime minister, the partition of the country would not have happened.”
The BJP considers Jinnah a villain and holds him responsible for India’s partition. Former deputy prime minister LK Advani was forced to resign as party president after he had praised Jinnah during one of his visits to Pakistan.
Raking up Jinnah ahead of the UP assembly election is likely to polarise the electorate on communal lines.
AIMIM supremo Owaisi, who is viewed as a leader of the Muslims, hit out at the Congress and held it responsible for the partition. In a public rally in Moradabad in UP on November 11, he said: “I challenge people of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party who do not read (history). Partition did not happen due to Muslims but due to Jinnah. At that time, only those Muslims could vote who were influential like nawabs or degree holders. Congress and leaders of that time were responsible for partition.”
AAP and Congress’s soft Hindutva
Besides the controversial statements which have been protested, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are seen playing soft Hindutva to eat into the BJP and Yogi’s core votes.
Pandering to the Hindu voters, Kejriwal visited the Ram temple in Ayodhya on October 26 and announced his government’s approval to the ‘Tirth Yatra Yojana’ (pilgrimage scheme) for senior citizens in Delhi.
Dismissing as “absolutely wrong” the charge that he is playing “soft Hindutva” card for votes in the run-up to assembly polls in four states, Kejriwal said: “I don’t know what is soft Hindutva. I want to unite 130 crore people of this country, unite one human being with another. This is Hindutva… Hindutva unites, Hindutva doesn’t break.”
AAP has announced that it would contest assembly polls on all seats in UP, Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand due to be held early next year.
Priyanka too has been visiting temples in UP in a bid to woo the Hindus.
With all prominent parties invoking religion, the upcoming UP election is likely to get polarised on communal lines.