New Delhi, Dec 1: What is the first and foremost duty of a public servant? Isn't it to work for the citizens, listen to their concerns, find solution to their problems and bring peace and prosperity to the nation?
What matters most to call a parliamentarian, a legislator or a panchayat member a good and a responsible politician/leader? Is it his/her report card or religious belief?
Unfortunately, in our secular and democratic country, our politicians--especially two of the most prominent ones, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi--and their stooges, are busy proving who is a 'bigger and better' Hindu, these days.
Where in the Constitution it is written that the PM, the President or anyone holding any public office has to be a Hindu only? It is true that Hindus are in a majority in the country--79.8 per cent of Indians are Hindus as per the Census 2011, followed by 14.2 per cent Muslims and six per cent following Christianity, Sikhism and other religions--with a population of 1.3 billion people.
Does that debar a Muslim, Christian or a Sikh to become the PM or President of the country? Not at all. In recent times we had late APJ Abdul Kalam (who was a Muslim) and Manmohan Singh (a Sikh) as our President and PM respectively. Both of them had their own highs and lows while holding the two topmost posts in the country, like any of their predecessors, who were mostly Hindus.
The instances of Kalam and Singh prove that religion has nothing to do with ones' caliber and commitment to become President or PM.
Aren't we a secular country, where talent, hard work, honesty and popularity of a politician should take precedence over his/her faith, religion or belief?
Then why is the fuss over Rahul and Modi's religion? The answer is the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections--scheduled on December 9 and 14.
It is clear that both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are desperate to win the elections in the home state of PM Modi. For the BJP, it's a matter of pride to retain Gujarat--considered the fort of the saffron party--after its uninterrupted rule of 22 years--out of which 13 were under Modi as the chief minister of the state.
As far as the Congress is concerned, it wants to shake the pan-India power of the BJP by embarrassing the saffron party in its home turf.
Since desperate times call for desperate measures, so both the parties decided to feed opium to the people--in the form of religion--so that the Gujaratis vote in a state of delirium without understanding the consequences of their actions.
When both the parties are guilty of bad performance, indulgence in corruption and persecution of weak and disadvantaged groups, to name a few of their vices, religion has come to the rescue of the both.
The fight over whether Modi and Rahul are Hindus or not started after the Congress VP in his new avatar of being a "savvy and smart politician" (after shedding his Pappu image) decided to hop from one temple to another in poll-bound Gujarat.
According to an estimate, Rahul has visited at least 15 temples in Gujarat since September as a part of the Congress' election campaign. But he did not care to visit a single mosque or a dargah in the state till now.
In order to get rid of its Muslim appeasement tag and woo Hindus voters, the Congress decided to 'maintain a distance' from Muslims during the Gujarat polls. Political pundits have called Rahul's "newfound love" for praying at temples in Gujarat as "soft Hindutva".
Obviously, Rahul's frequent visit to Gujarat temples has irked the ruling BJP to the core, as temples and Hindu religion are the prerogatives of the saffron party. From Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, several top leaders of the BJP attacked Rahul for wooing Hindu voters.
As Rahul continued with his mandir visits in Gujarat, a fuming BJP decided to hit out at the Congress VP by questioning whether he is a true Hindu or not. Often Rahul and his family members are dubbed as Christians by the saffron party and right-wing groups as his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who originally hails from Italy, is a Christian by birth.
Priest-turned-politician Yogi indirectly called Rahul a Muslim after the UP CM alleged that the Congress VP sat in a temple in Gujarat like performing namaz.
The attack on Rahul's 'actual' religion took an ugly turn on Wednesday when reports suggested that the scion of the Gandhi family on his visit to the Somnath temple in Gujarat registered himself as a non- Hindu in the temple's logbook.
While the Congress called Rahul's signature fake in the temple register and a conspiracy by the BJP to malign the party VP's reputation, the BJP demanded an answer from the opposition party to clarify Rahul's actual religion.
"There is only one visitor's book at Somnath temple that was signed by Rahul. Any other image being circulated is fabricated," the party said on Twitter.
Clarification: There is only one visitor's book at Somnath Temple that was signed by Congress VP Rahul Gandhi. Any other image being circulated is fabricated.— Congress (@INCIndia) November 29, 2017
Desperate times call for desperate measures? pic.twitter.com/KOokFOH83z
The Congress hurriedly conducted a press meet on Wednesday to clarify on the matter fearing that the entire row over Rahul's religion might harm the party's poll prospect in Gujarat.
"Here is the original signature of Rahul at Somnath Temple," Congress' chief whip in the Lok Sabha Deepender Hooda said showing an entry in a visitors' book, reported ANI. "The other signature is written as 'Rahul Gandhi ji', why would he write 'ji'? We don't know who wrote it. The BJP is doing what it does best: diverting from real issues."
The Congress in order to be in the good books of the upper caste Hindus even stressed on the fact that Rahul is a Brahmin (considered to be the top caste in the Hindu religion), who wears a sacred thread.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, "The signature which is being talked of is different. Neither it is the signature of Rahul, nor was this register ever given to him." Surjewala also said that not only was Gandhi a Hindu, but also a "janeu dhari" Hindu (a Hindu who wears a sacred thread around his torso).
BJP Information Technology cell head Amit Malviya had questioned whether the Gandhi family was "lying about" its religious faith. Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded that Rahul "must say who he actually is".
In fact, earlier on Wednesday, when Modi was campaigning in the state, the PM criticised Rahul over his Somnath temple visit.
Modi stated that the country's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru (Rahul's great-grandfather) had expressed displeasure over building the place of worship.
"If there was no Sardar Patel, the temple in Somnath would never have been possible. Today some people are remembering Somnath, I have to ask them: 'Have you forgotten your history'? Your family members, our first prime minister, was not happy with the idea of a temple being built there," Modi said in a rally.
The political row over Rahul's religion took a twist when senior Congress leader and former Union minister Kapil Sibal stated that "PM Modi was not a real Hindu" on Thursday.
"PM Modi is not a real Hindu. These people (BJP) have forgotten the Hindu religion and adopted 'Hindutva' instead," the Congress leader told media.
On Thursday, Rahul, who was in Gujarat as a part of the two-day visit, denied signing any register except the visitors' book at the historical temple.
"I had signed my name in one of the visitors' books at Somnath, but people associated with the BJP wrote my name in another visitors' book," he said.
He stressed that his family was a devotee of Shiva. "My grandmother and my family are Shiva devotees. Religion is our personal matter," he said, adding that they don't give or take anyone's certificate on religion. "We don't want to do dalali (trade) in the name of religion," he said.
Condemning Sibal for his remarks against Modi's religion, BJP leader Nalin Kohli said, "Sibal is making a zero argument without any basis at all whatsoever. He must instead answer questions about Rahul's religion."
In fact, on Thursday evening, the hashtag--#ModiFaithAttacked--was trending on Twitter to oppose Sibal calling Modi a "non-Hindu".
Amid all the venom and hatred being spewed on real and virtual world regarding Modi and Rahul's faith, a tweet by a user said it succulently about what matters the most.
#ModiFaithAttacked what a low level of discourse ! Now people competing to be #Hindu ! Does going to a #Mandir #Masjid make someone a real #Hindu or a real #Muslim? Character makes a person a good human being and then a #Hindu or a #Muslim— zafar sareshwala (@zafarsareshwala) November 30, 2017
As communal politics rears its ugly head ahead of the Gujarat polls, time to elect the country's first Muslim PM during the Lok Sabha elections of 2019? Or is it asking for the moon in times of mob lynchings of Muslims and hyper-nationalism?