Lok Sabha member and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari on Wednesday said the party went down a “slippery slope” ever since it deviated from the ideals of Nehruvian secularism.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Tewari said the debate between Hindutva and Hinduism missed the Nehruvian ideal of “religion being a private space”.
His comments are seen as a counter to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who, on November 14, while virtually addressing party workers, had distinguished between all inclusive Hinduism and the political ideology of Hindutva that the BJP follows.
“In Hinduism VS Hindutva debate some people in @INCIndia [Indian National Congress] miss a fundamental point. If I were to believe that my religious identity should be basis of my politics then I should be in A Majoritarian or Minoritarian Political Party. I am in @INCIndia because I believe in Nehruvian Ideal that Religion is a private space activity,” Mr. Tewari tweeted.
“Everyone has the right to practice, profess & propagate their religion in their private lives. In Public domain there should be a strict separation of the Church & State. I am a Hindu, I worship my God but that is not my politics,” he added.
Priyanka’s temple visit
The Congress leader’s comments came on a day when the party showcased general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s visit to an ancient Shiva temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot.
Mr. Tewari, who is among the group of reformists or Congress’ group of 23 (G-23) leaders who wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi to press for reforms, asserted that a larger debate was required on the issue of mixing religion with politics.
“When @INCIndia deviated from the Nehruvian ideal of Secularism as interpreted as Separation of Church & State and moved towards Sarv Dharam Sambhav it started down a slippery slope & has not stopped skidding since. Larger debate required,” he said.
The Congress MP said Jawaharlal Nehru was a Pandit and Abdul Kalam Azad was a maulana. Despite their deep understanding of their respective faiths “they built modern Indian State by designing Constitution on avowedly Secular basis & not on religious identity despite Partition.”
Mr. Tewari said, “In the global struggle between Right Wing Populism & Liberalism, Progressive parties cannot ever win hearts and minds of people if they offer ‘ersatz’ ideologies predicated on religion & caste bereft of core convictions and pluralistic beliefs”.
Mr. Tewari is the latest to join the debate that started after former Law Minister Salman Khurshid, in his new book, Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationalism in Our Times , in which he made the controversial comparison between Hindutva and Islamic terror outfits such as the IS.
The book not only drew sharp criticism from the BJP but also his colleague, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had said “the comparison is factually incorrect and an exaggeration”.