Thursday, March 19, 2009


What Varun Gandhi has said in his "hate speeches" is something that has come as a shock to a lot of us. He is now saying that one of those speeches has been doctored and that he did not use certain words attributed to him. But, there is no escaping the fact that even what he has said by his own admission is bad enough.

There is no need to counter-argue, as some are doing, that Muslim leaders routinely make hate speeches which are not reported by the media, that AR Antulay has not been censured for his anti-national statements after Mumbai 26/11 , that the open interference of the Church and other religious organisations in the selection of candidates and politics in general in Kerala and elsewhere is a naked display of communal politics etc. No matter what the "justification" to blunt the vituperative sting in what Varun Gandhi has said, it simply cannot be condoned.

Varun Gandhi is no street-side goonda who knows only the language of abuse and hate. He is not an illiterate buffoon pitch-forked into a situation that he is not equipped to handle. He is not an unintelligent young man who does not know what he can say and what he must not. He is the grandson of Indira Gandhi and the son of a sophisticated and westernised Sikh lady who has been a minister herself. Like his cousin Rahul Gandhi, he knows what it is like at the very top of the heap. That is why his descent to 'nukkad' type of speeches to energise Hindus to vote for him is not acceptable at all.

Hearing him read out his prepared statement in Delhi, after things had come to a boil, and his follow-up impromptu interviews to journalists of various channels, one got a sense that Varun Gandhi was a man who could easily field tough questions thrown at him with ease. He also emerged as a confident young man with real leadership potential. If one were to ignore the content of his speeches for just a moment, it is also apparent that he can effectively communicate with his audience and get his message across to them effectively. The same, as everyone knows by now, cannot be said about his better known cousin who, despite having been on the job for seven years, has just not been able to connect to the people he wants to lead.

Yes, it cannot be denied that that the media do not even want to look at the fact Varun Gandhi has not spoken out of context, simply because they will then stand exposed for being silent about disturbing developments that any fair and objective media should have been highlighting all along. It is transparently clear that in his constituency, a large number of Hindus are feeling insecure and that a series of disturbing communal incidents have taken place over time to make them feel so. There is, thus, a real background which Varun Gandhi has tried to exploit to consolidate the Hindu vote in his favour, quite like the Congress party, Mulayam Yadav, Laloo Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, the Left and others who have openly trying to do with respect to the Muslim vote for years now, all in the name of secularism.

That is where the justification for what he has said ends.

The words that he has used and the manner in which he has spoken of Muslims is simply not acceptable from any political leader, much less a modern and educated young man with his kind of background. He has every right to say that he is a proud Hindu and is "not apologetic about it" (like many from similar backgrounds are), and that he believes in "inclusive" Hindutva as he understands it. No one can say that he is saying anything wrong when he says that he is a "Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian in equal measure" and that "India is a big country with a big heart" where there is space for all.

The problem is that he did not remember any of this when he was making those election speeches. Then, he was no less than a rabble-rouser who was openly inciting communal hatred to exploit what he believed was aggressive communalism to which everyone had been turning a blind eye for long. This kind of communal rhetoric may be commonplace in India's neighbourhood; indeed it defines the very nationhood of some of our neighbours who were once part of this country. But, in a secular and democratic India, there is simply no place for it.

Varun Gandhi is a young man who is just starting his political career. Notwithstanding the motivation of those who carried out this sting operation to record his speeches, he has not begun well. He has to learn how to keep his emotions and tongue under control, no matter what the provocation, and not lose sight of the bigger picture and the secular ethos of the culture of this land. And to atone for what he has already said, it is necessary for him to apologise to all Indians. His party also needs to visibly admonish him and warn other candidates to strictly adhere to laid down guidelines.

Readers may also read:
1. The Varun sting: who is not playing the communal card?
2. Will Congress do better without Sonia and Rahul?
3. It's a two-horse race to Race Course Road
4. Marginalisation of Congress gathers momentum