Punjab The discussion of Hindus in politics has increased for some time now. Hindu voters have come under the spotlight of all parties after the SAD-BJP alliance broke down and Captain Amarinder Singh parted ways with the Congress. After the removal of Captain, when most of the MLAs supported Sunil Jakhar as Chief Minister, then senior leader Ambika Soni sparked a new controversy by saying that only a turbaned Sikh should be the Chief Minister in Punjab. Jakhar also reacted strongly to this.
Meanwhile, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi told Hindutva and Hindutva separately, then senior leader Manish Tewari advised him to stay away from Hindutva debate. The basic spirit of the Congress party is quite different from this. This debate intensified when former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid raised questions on Hindutva in his book. Dainik Jagran discussed all these issues in detail with Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat of Punjab and former Union Minister Manish Tewari. He said that the Congress can regain its lost glory only by returning to its original ideology of Hindutva. Here are the highlights of his conversation:-
Question: Hindus in Punjab are moving away from Congress, what do you think is the reason behind this?
Answer: I am the only Hindu MP out of 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and represent the region (Sri Anandpur Sahib) where the Khalsa Panth was founded on April 13, 1699. My mother was a Jatt Sikh and father a Hindu, who was shot dead in April 1984. My father used to defend the ethos of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat. I was chosen not because I am a Hindu or a Sikh, but because I am colored in Punjabiyat. I was elected irrespective of being the sir name of UP or Bihar. First I won from Ludhiana and later from Sri Anandpur Sahib. My political opponents kept ridiculing me by saying ‘Eh-UP Bihar da Bhaiya kitho aa gaya’, but the people of Punjab rejected such communal and casteist thinking. Punjabi does not think in terms of religion or caste. Whoever tries to divide Punjab in the name of religion and caste, he does the biggest loss to the state. Despite the era of terrorism, our social unity remains intact. Which protects us despite all the cunning tricks of Pakistan.
Question: Despite Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka going from temple to temple, Congress seems to be in a dilemma regarding Hindus?
Answer: For this you have to look a little in the past. Before independence, there were two views in the Congress regarding religion. ‘Gandhian Humanism and Nehruvian Pluralism.’ After the assassination of Gandhi on January 30, 1948, the secular outlook of former Prime Minister Late Jawaharlal Nehru was strengthened. Nehru believed that religion was a private and internal activity. Who is between God and you. I am a Hindu and worship my God everyday. This is not my politics. This is a basic conceptual concept. Congress should also understand this. There is nothing wrong in bowing down in a temple, church, gurudwara or mosque, but it should not be the basis of your politics. If I want my religious identity to be the basis of my politics, I must be in a majority or minority party, such as the Hindu Mahasabha or the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Salman Khurshid has compared Hindutva with terrorist organizations, how true do you think it is?
AnswerTo be honest, I haven’t read Salman Khurshid’s book yet. In such a situation, it would be inappropriate to comment about an author. However, in my limited understanding of the various ideologies of political Islam, ISIS and Boko Haram lead the most dangerously toxic ideology. Peace loving Muslims around the world have rejected him outright. As far as Hindutva is concerned, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Jagdish Saran Verma of the Supreme Court held in 1995 that Hindutva is a way of life. In October 2016, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench headed by then CJI Tirath Singh Thakur refused to reopen that question. I believe that we should respect the Supreme Court’s comment on Hindutva.
When it came to the new Chief Minister in Punjab, Ambika Soni said that the Chief Minister should be wearing a turban, where is secularism in this?
Answer: Look, only Ambika Soni ji can give a better answer to this. I have a lot of respect for Ambika ji. As far as I am concerned, I believe that Punjab believes in ‘Manas ki Jaat Sabhai Ekai Pehchanbo’. There is no difference between one human being and another human being.
Captain justifies expanding the scope of BSF, Congress government passes a censure motion, you are also raising questions. Why?
Answer: Captain sahab has his own point of view. I will not comment on his point of view. Yes it is necessary that I have publicly and privately advised the Punjab Government to take recourse to Article 131 of the Constitution of India and challenge the notification of the Central Government in the Supreme Court. This is an attack on the federal structure and will have far-reaching consequences. Passing a resolution in the assembly shows the political will of the state, but it will not withdraw the notification. If the Punjab government decides to move the Supreme Court, I am also ready to argue on behalf of the state of Punjab for free.
Sidhu sometimes plays the party brick by brick, sometimes resigns. What is the compulsion of Congress in keeping them together?
Answer: To be honest, in my career spanning 40 years, I have never seen such ‘weird behavior’ of a State Congress President, Chief Minister or Union Minister. What is the compulsion of the All India Congress, only he will be able to tell, but it is necessary that the repeated neglect of the AICC leadership has an impact on the whole country. Leaders of other states will also start behaving the same way.
You are a member of G-23. Are you not satisfied with the working of the party high command?
Answer: First of all let me make it clear that G-23 is not a group of 23 leaders but the sentiments of lakhs and crores of common Congress workers, who want the party to return to its old glory. Sadly, the whole effort was misunderstood. This was projected as a challenge to the Congress leadership to serve some vested interests, while it is not. If the Congress is reduced to 40-50 seats in the Lok Sabha, then they should take a peek at themselves. Because we have already had the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, out of 44 assembly elections, the Congress had to face defeat in 34. Only four states have won. There is an alliance of Congress in six states. Congress can win 272 seats in 2024 if the party leadership still heeds our pain of rejuvenation. People want to get rid of BJP led NDA alliance. This process is yet to start, as it has been 30 months since the Lok Sabha elections took place. We have to introspect and get the party back to basics.
The Captain is going to form his own party, do you think this decision of the former Chief Minister is right?
Answer: Look, Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation could have been handled better. Given his seniority and stature, he should have been told that the party aspires for a change. He would have resigned graciously and would have been in Congress now. I still advocate conciliation. Captain is a Congressman at heart. You can kick someone out of Congress, but you can’t take Congress out of him. I know many such BJP MLAs and MPs, who are still Congressmen at heart. What to do is a political compulsion, isn’t it brother?
Manish Tewari spoke openly on these issues
On the politics of Hindutva: There is nothing wrong in bowing down in a temple, church, gurudwara or mosque, but it should not be the basis of politics.
Congress stand on Hindutva: Religion is a private activity. The secular approach of Jawaharlal Nehru is the core ideological concept of the Congress.
On Khurshid’s comment: ISIS and Boko Haram lead a toxic ideology, whereas Hindutva is a way of life.
On the jurisdiction of BSF: Increasing the jurisdiction of BSF is an attack on the federal structure of the state. It will have far-reaching consequences.
On Navjot Sidhu: In my career spanning 40 years, I have never seen such ‘weird behavior’ of State Congress President, Chief Minister or Union Minister.
On G-23: It is not a group of 23 leaders but the sentiments of lakhs and crores of common workers, who want the party to return to its old glory.
On the 2024 election: People want to get rid of BJP. We have to introspect and get the party back to basics.
On removing the Captain: It could have been handled better. You can kick someone out of Congress, but you can’t take Congress out of him.