Wardha/New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday maintained that Hinduism and Hindutva are "different things" and slammed the ideology of the BJP-RSS alleging it has spread hatred in India, drawing a sharp retort from the BJP which claimed that the Congress leadership nurses a "pathological hatred" for Hinduism.
Observing that his party's ideology is alive and vibrant and is like a "beautiful jewel" with an unending power inside it, but it has been overshadowed by the BJP, Gandhi also said in today's India, ideological fight has become very important.
Is Hinduism about beating a Sikh, or a Muslim. Hindutva, of course, is. In which book is it written? I have not seen it. I have read the Upanishads. I have not read it, Gandhi said, as he sought to draw a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva, a term widely used by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS).
"What is the difference between Hinduism as we know it and Hindutva. Are they the same thing. Can they be the same thing. If they are the same thing, why don't they have the same name. Why do they have a different name. Why do you use the word Hinduism, why not just use Hindutva if they are the same thing.They are obviously different things".
The remarks by Gandhi that escalated the political heat between the BJP and the Congress ahead of the assembly polls in five states including Uttar Pradesh came a day after senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid sparked a row by comparing a "robust version" of Hindutva to the jihadist Islam of terror groups such as the ISIS and Boko Haram. Khurshid, who stood by his remarks made in his new book on Ayodhya verdict, had come under attack on Thursday from the BJP as well as his party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Gandhi said that if crystallized, the Congress ideology will envelope that of the BJP-RSS, and emphasised on strengthening his party's ideas within the organisation and spreading them across the country.
Gandhi was addressing online a four-day 'AICC orientation programme' organised at Sevagram Ashram in Wardha in Maharashtra. Congress representatives from across the states are participating in the event.
"We have to accept that there are two ideologies in India - the Congress ideology and the RSS ideology. We have to accept the BJP-RSS has spread hatred in today's India."
"The BJP has overshadowed the loving, affectionate and nationalistic ideology of the Congress party. Our ideology is alive and vibrant, but it has been overshadowed by the BJP," said the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala.
"It has been overshadowed partly because of complete capture of the media and complete capture of the Indian nation. It has also been overshadowed as we have not propagated our ideology among our own people aggressively."
Hitting out at the former Congress president for his criticism of Hindutva, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that Rahul Gandhi has a history of making critical comments about Hinduism and its culture, adding that it is at his behest that leaders such as Salman Khurshid, Shashi Tharoor and P Chidambaram have targeted the religion.
It is in the character of the Congress and the Gandhi family to attack Hinduism at every opportunity, he said, adding that Rahul Gandhi has hurt the sentiments of 130 crore Indians by speaking against the Hindu religion.
"What they say is not a coincidence but an experiment. And the headmaster of this experimental lab is Rahul Gandhi.... There is a pathological hatred for Hinduism among Congress leaders, and they get traction for this from the Gandhi family," he alleged at a news conference in Delhi.
Citing terms like Hindu Pakistan, Hindu Taliban and saffron terror used by Tharoor and Chidambaram, the BJP leader alleged they make these remarks at Rahul Gandhi's behest. He also referred to Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar in this context.
Patra also referred to a comment of Rahul Gandhi, which had found a mention in the WikiLeaks in 2010, that Hindu extremist groups could pose a bigger danger to India than Islamic terror organisation and some other remarks to attack him.
The Congress leader, Patra alleged, has violated constitutional tenets.
At his Wardha interaction, Gandhi acknowledged that the Congress did not propagate its ideas properly in the past.
"Now is the time to strengthen Congress ideology in its own organisation and spread it across India through party workers," he said. The Congress MP also stressed on importance of ideological training, which he said, should be mandatory for all party workers.
"The central way to propagate the party's ideology is by training people in a conversation about what it means to be a Congress person and how is that different from being an RSS person," Gandhi said.
Ideologically training of party workers, in my view, should be made mandatory irrespective of seniority."
Gandhi said the Congress ideology, if studied and propagated deeply in the organisation, has answers of all questions related to various issues of public concern - ranging from Article 370, terrorism to nationalism, but the party doesn't give necessary tools to its workers to articulate them.
"It(ideology) is our strength...it is why we exist and it is important we discover it. They (BJP) have discovered their ideology and crystallized it. We have to crystallize our ideology and the moment we do that it will envelope their ideology. The hate that is being spread today will vanish and the future which seems uncertain will become certain," he added.