Cow Nation: Rahul Gandhi Takes A Leaf Out Of Indira's Book
Cut to 2017, Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent and vice-president of the Congress with its ‘right hand’ symbol, seems to have gone back to his grandmother’s time and embraced the cow, in all its ‘holiness’
File image of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. (Image: PTI)
New Delhi: The year was 1971. Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, Indira Gandhi, rode to power as Prime Minister on a ‘cow and calf’ symbol.
Cut to 2017, Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent and vice-president of the Congress with its ‘right hand’ symbol, seems to have gone back to his grandmother’s time and embraced the cow, in all its ‘holiness’.
Hours after the party’s youth workers, on Sunday, slaughtered an ox in Kannur, Kerala, against the Centre’s ban on cattle slaughter, Rahul took to Twitter to condemn the act, calling it ‘thoughtless, barbaric and completely unacceptable.’ Other party leaders, including Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, echoed his opinion. The Youth Congress members were soon suspended.
Is this a subtle hint at the ‘nationalist’ reinvention of the grand old party of Indian polity? Yes, say senior Congress leaders.
“Whether we like it or not, the time right now is all about one’s love for cow. Either you are with the nation or against it on that. There’s no in between,” said a Congress leader close to the Gandhis.
Soon after the ban became public, the party top brass huddled at 10 Janpath, to decide further course of action. The decision was unanimous. The party had to be guarded in its response to the cattle slaughter ban. They would bring forth the fact that cow slaughter was first banned in by Indira Gandhi and that almost all Congress ruled states had banned cow slaughter.
“Cow slaughter was not to be made into a political issue. The point to be highlighted was the freedom to eat. We didn’t want to come across as a party that was against the core Hindutva ideology,” said the leader, on condition of anonymity.
But what does the party do when it comes to rebellion on its stance, from one of their own? Take Kerala for instance. Even after the suspension, youth Congress leader Rijil Makkutty, on Facebook, said he would continue to fight the saffron party and the Sangh Parivar. Karnataka, too, is treading on similar lines. Despite the state units being at loggerheads with the central party leadership over the issue, the latter says its hands are tied.
“We have to look at the larger picture. We are not going to voice our support for what the state units feel or do. It puts us on the back foot when it comes to national agenda. We won’t take major actions against state leaders, but we will also make sure that we don’t openly support their actions,” said the leader.
The paradigm shift in party’s reactions over a central policy is rare, but it is well thought out.
The change, another Congress leader says, has not been sudden and was well in the making. Soon after the humiliating debacle in the Uttar Pradesh elections, the party had decided that the appeasement tag did the party no good. Another Congress leader told CNN-News18 that the alliance with Samajwadi Party, which is considered pro-Muslim, also didn’t work for the party. Instead, it lost out on the little Brahmin vote bank that the party had just begun to gain. The time for change had come, the party had concluded.
Now, apart from guarded reactions to central policies, plans are also being chalked out for the Gandhi scion to attend events and programs that push or at least cater to Hindutva agenda. A repeat of his 2016 Kedarnath trip is in the pipeline.
As the race for 2019 intensifies, the Congress has definitely started to feel the heat. And the party seems to have, in hindsight at least, embraced the love for cow and support for Hindutva with one aim — to intensify it in its own way to win over the nation.
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