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'Hindutva Lite' won't solve Cong's heartland problems: Tharoor

Hindutva Lite wont solve Congs heartland problems: Tharoor

New Delhi: Asserting that the Congress has a duty to defend secular space, senior leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the answer to the party's woes in Hindi heartland does not lie in "majority appeasement" or offering some sort of a "Hindutva Lite" like a "Coke Lite" as such a pursuit will only end up in being "Congress Zero".

He also alleged that for the BJP dispensation and its allies being a Hindu is no different from the team identity loyalty of the "British football hooligan". In an interview to PTI ahead of the launch of his book 'The Hindu Way: An Introduction to Hinduism', Tharoor claimed that what those in power are propagating is not Hinduism in any true sense, but a "grotesque deformation" of a glorious faith, which they have converted into a narrow-minded political tool to serve purely political and electoral gains. Tharoor said, as a cautious optimist he would argue that there are enough like-minded Indians, including among youth, who are committed to resisting recent "chauvinistic trends" and will continue to ensure that a "distorted idea of India" does not prevail.

"As a member of the Congress party, I do believe that the party has a fundamental role -- and a duty to take the lead -- in defending the secular space in India," the Thiruvananthapuram MP said. "Those who are suggesting that the answer to the party's woes in the Hindi heartland is to become more like the BJP in 'majority- appeasement' are making a cardinal error: if the voter is presented with a choice between the original article and a pale imitation, he will choose the original every time," he said.

Tharoor argued that rather than allowing itself to be intimidated by the BJP's success, it is far better for the Congress to stand up for what it has always believed in and urge the country to follow its principles.

"The loyalist will respect a party that demonstrates the courage of our convictions rather than offering some sort of 'Hindutva Lite'; like 'Coke Lite' and 'Pepsi Zero', 'Hindutva Lite' will only end up with 'Congress Zero'," the 63-year-old leader said. Tharoor's remarks come following Congress' washout in the Hindi heartland in the Lok Sabha polls and suggestions by some from both within and outside the party that it needs to counter the BJP narrative of "minority appeasement" and go soft on its secularism refrain.

'Coke Lite' and 'Pepsi Zero' are sugar-free and no-calorie variants of the original soft drinks. Asserting that 'secularism' is a word that is often misunderstood, Tharoor said western dictionaries have defined secularism essentially as the absence of religion and distancing from religion, but in reality, Indian secularism has always meant a profusion of religions. PTI

Asim Kamal

Asim Kamal

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