AK Antony. Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives
Thiruvananthapuram: A debate is raging in the political circles of Kerala over Congress veteran A K Antony's warning that ignoring Hindus in the name of distancing away from 'soft Hindutva' will only help Prime Minister Narendra Modi to retain power in New Delhi, with party leaders speaking for and against the former state Chief Minister.
"Along with the minorities, the majority Hindus should also be aligned in (Congress's) fight against Modi. The approach (of a section) that those Hindu friends visiting temples and applying sandal paste (tilak) on their foreheads are standing on the soft Hindutva side will only help Modi to retain power", Antony had said.
The veteran made the remarks while addressing party workers on Wednesday on the 138th foundation day of the Indian National Congress at the KPCC headquarters here.
Totally backing Antony, senior Congress leader K Muraleedharan accused Kerala's ruling CPI(M) of creating confusion among people on the issue.
Accusing the BJP and RSS of attempting to divide the country, he said they lacked the broad-mindedness envisaged by the Hindu religion.
While Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, V D Satheesan also strongly supported and defended Antony's statement, party MP Rajmohan Unnithan howeverm expressed his reservation, saying he cannot agree with such a view.
Unnithan, who is representing the Kasaragode seat in the Lok Sabha, however, did not elaborate.
The CPI(M) accused the Congress of always adopting a soft Hindutva approach in their political policies and claimed that such a stand would not help resist the surge of BJP.
The BJP attacked Antony for his remarks, saying the Congress is the biggest anti-Hindu party which promotes minority communalism.
Satheesan said what Antony said was real politics and it was not right to say that all Hindus in the country are BJP supporters.
Stating that all those who wear saffron dhotis and apply sandalwood paste on their foreheads are not BJP sympathisers, he said portraying them as Sangh activists would only aid the right wing forces.
"A vast majority of Hindus are against communalism and Sangh Parivar forces. Going to a temple is just the same as visiting a church," he told reporters in Kottayam.
While defending Antony, Muraleedharan targeted the CPI (M) on the issue, saying the Left party used to complain about Rahul Gandhi's temple visits and allege that it was part of the 'soft Hindutva' stand adopted by the Congress party.
"There is nothing called 'soft Hindutva' or 'extreme Hindutva' in Hinduism," said Muraleedharan who is also a former president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).
"But, they should understand that Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi also had visited temples. So, it should be viewed in that sense. It's wrong interpretation is amounted to hand over the wholesale (authority) of Hindu religion to BJP," he said addressing a press meet here.
The Congress is a party which gives equal space to both believers and non-believers and its stand is to respect each other while working within its framework.
It has always wanted to ensure the fundamental rights of minority communities enshrined in the Constitution and the call to protect their right is not appeasement, he added.
CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan said those who wear tilak on their foreheads are not Soft Hindutvavadis. "They are faithful, "he told reporters in Kochi.
Govindan claimed that Soft Hindutva is a "bridge for organising people" for the BJP. "The Congress is doing that", he alleged.
Hitting out at Antony, BJP state president K Surendran termed the veteran Congress leader's statement as "hypocrisy" and said whenever he got a chance to rule, Antony had taken a position of harming the Hindu community.
No other party has harmed the majority community like the Congress did, he alleged.
"The Congress which moves forward with communal and extremist forces, is running the last lap. The end of Congress is not far away," Surendran added.