Gimmicks galore in Gujarat

Yatindra Bhatnagar

Election time is the best period for gimmicks, lies, change of loyalties and parties, demonstrating yourself as never before, showing what you are and what you are not, and exposing  your side never seen before – and maybe will not be seen in future at all.

I heard and read a Sanskrit saying as a pre-middle school kid and still remember it. It’s not my creation. It has been there since … I don’t know, maybe hundreds of years. However it’s the truth, it’s universal and still prevalent:

Bubhukshitum kin na karoti papum?

(What sins a hungry person will not commit?)

Now you may be hungry for bread, or for any other things. You don’t commit ‘sins’ for all kinds of hunger – like hunger for runs in cricket, goals in soccer and hockey, holes in golf,  and baskets in basketball, etc. In most of these thigs you don’t commit sins – getting undeserved marks in exams is a little sinful act as you cheat or the examiner cheats.

However, in politics and elections you are hungry for votes and power and can go all out, all the way, all around and all the time to satiate your hunger and do some sinful acts. Many politicians and campaigners become evil; they embrace the devil and stop thinking about anything related to the word ‘sin.’ They are focused on votes and how to get them – in plenty. For that hunger they tell lies, they bribe, they put pressure and employ all kind of tactics, they become secular, socialist, rightist-leftist-centrist, and in desperation become very, very religious depending on the place, time - and hopes.

And of course, there is not one but many religions in the world, in your country, and your state and your campaign area, and at all the time staring at you from the Temple, Mosque, Church, Gurdwara, and so on. And then there are different hues and facets of these places of worship.

So what do you do?

Keep changing your religion – or at least show that you follow a particular religion in a particular area, at a time of your choosing, and as the situation demands.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But what’s the harm if you have changed earlier and that didn’t work. Now is the time to experiment, it might succeed and get you votes, satisfy your hunger. Just experiment, you have nothing to lose more, you have lost quite a lot earlier.

These days in India a crucial election is taking place – in the state of Gujarat – and all kinds of things are happening. The most interesting and – also hilariously innovative – is the newfound religious zeal and suddenly awakened love for Hindu Temples and particularly for Lord Shiva – the kindest yet the most dreaded (destroyer) god from the Trinity.

The newfound religious person, and that too a staunch Shiv bhakt (devotees Lord Shiva), that has emerged from the polluted poll place – the campaign trail – is none else but Rahul Gandhi.  The newly-crowned president of the Congress Party, the man associated with many faces, many faiths and many methods aimed for satisfying his immense hunger for those missing millions of votes despite his millions of meetings, is the star attraction on the election stage. [A Congress worker, Haseeb Ahmad, has come out with a big poster and addressed him as ‘Pandit’ Rahul Gandhi, the vanshaj (descendent) of  Lord Parashuram, the ‘ultimate warrior among Brahmins’ who defeated the Kshatriya warrior kings several times.]

Forget that his party is going downhill and has only about 45 seats in Lok Sabha (Parliament’s Lower House) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, BJP, around 275. Also forget that the Congress could not even get the status of the Official Opposition Party in Lok Sabha.

All that is immaterial and Rahul has put that all behind. Now the religious storm brewing inside Rahul Gandhi’s body has propelled him to undertake a Teerth Yatra (religious pilgrimage) to all the temples in Gujarat where the polling is under way.

In India extensive personal investigation is normally not done by the media about, and around, the top political figures and so Rahul has also been spared. However, reports that keep circulating say that when his father, Rajiv Gandhi (an Indian), married a Roman Catholic Sonia Gandhi (of Italy) in an Italian church – and as the faith directs - he had to convert and was renamed Roberto, a name he was not found to have used later.

According to strict principles of Catholic faith, the children of a Catholic family also are regarded as Roman Catholic. So Rahul became Raul and his sister Priyanka got the new name Bianca. The reports also said that they all have Italian passports beside the Indian.  

I don’t know if there is any truth in it at all. The only truth, as we all know, is that sister Priyanka is married to a Christian, Robert Vadra. So what?

Coming back to Rahul, he has said that he and his family members were Shivbhakts but that he did not want to use his religion for political gains or "dalali" (deals). We do not want to commercialize this thing. We don't want to do 'dalali' over it. We do not want to use it for political purposes too. It’s a private matter, he added. 

[Rahul Gandhi found himself at the center of a row after his name along with that of senior Congress leader, Ahmed Patel, was found written on the entry register meant for non- Hindus. The signatures against their names were that of the Congress party's media coordinator, Manoj Tyagi.  

Rahul alleged that his name in the non-Hindu register was entered by BJP workers. The Congress maintains that it’s a conspiracy.

The BJP denied its involvement and said Rahul Gandhi's aide, who signed the register, is himself a Congressman.  

The temple administration said Rahul Gandhi's name was written in the shrine's register for non-Hindus by his media coordinator, and the temple staff was not involved in the episode. Non-Hindus are allowed to visit the temple but have to first register their names at the shrine's office.]

In any case, Rahul is supposed to have discarded his reported Catholic faith; it did not get him votes. He had been known as a secular (like pro-Muslims) but he did not get enough Muslim votes. Then he showed his love for the Dalits (the downtrodden sections of the society) and they also ditched him.

Now he has been trying hard to cultivate an image of a staunch Hindu and a Shivbhakt and embarked on a pilgrimage to all the major temples in Gujarat. He has shown his Janeu (sacred thread devout Hindus wear across their shoulders) and hopes that this long pilgrimage will get his party enough votes to win the Gujarat elections. This, probably, is his last change of face and the last opportunity to satisfy his hunger for votes - and so anything is fair.

However, all that is now in public realm and the people are quick to react. Some comments from the Times of India newspaper (no responsibility taken) are worth mentioning.

Zubina Ahmad: Ichchhadhari Hindu (in some Indian movies a person changes into a snake at will). 

Another: I realized that Rahul is a staunch Brahmin as he refused to shake hands with Modi and instead did Namaste with folded hands (a photo was included.) 

Yet another wrote: I doesn’t matter if he is a Hindu or a Muslim, but Rahul being the best stand-up comedian is enough for me. 

Another comment was : If Rahul’s press briefing (about being a staunch Hindu) had continued for some more time he would have claimed that he demolished Babri Mosque.

Another: The Party that tried hard to coin the word ‘Hindu Terrorism’ is now fighting hard to prove its president is a janeudhaari Hindu Brahmin.

Let me add to all the above: Unconfirmed reports are circulating that Rahul Gandhi is trying to enroll himself in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the RSS. He might also join the Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal to finally put an indelible stamp on his Hinduism.

The final advice: Take heart Rahul Ji, if even the Hindu face leaves you hungry, you can always declare yourself as an atheist, an agnostic, a Communist – all non-believers. It would be better than being a saint and waiting years for your canonizing or doing tapasya to become a Sanyasi (monk.)