In an effort to counter the BJP’s claims that Congress is anti-Hindu, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on January 12 highlighted a speech made two decades ago by Sonia Gandhi at the Ramakrishna Mission, emphasising how Hindu liberal thoughts contributed to India’s secular identity.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP’s move came a day after the BJP criticised the grand old party’s decision to decline the invitation to its three top leaders to attend the Ram temple consecration ceremony in Ayodhya, claiming it exposed the party’s inherent opposition to India’s culture and Hindu religion.
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In a post on social media platform X, where he attached Ms. Gandhi’s speech highlighting Swami Vivekananda’s views on Hinduism, the Congress Working Committee member expressed his belief that the teachings of Vivekananda carry a highly relevant and impactful message for the present day.
Sonia Gandhi, in her speech on January 12, 1999, when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was in power, had expressed concern and sadness over the “appropriation” of Swami Vivekananda — who had admired “India’s pluralistic and composite heritage” — by certain sections of society.
Mr. Tharoor, in his post, said the Indian National Congress’s (INC) association with Hindu liberalism is not a recent response to events over the past decade but rather a longstanding and deeply held conviction.
He wrote, “25 years ago today, then Congress President Sonia Gandhiji delivered this thoughtful address at the #NationalYouthDay function at the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi on 12th January 1999.
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Ms. Gandhi had lamented that Swami Vivekananda’s appreciation for India’s diverse heritage and the message of Hinduism, emphasising tolerance and harmony, was being distorted and appropriated by groups promoting hate and antagonism, rejecting the secular foundations of ancient civilisation.
“It is hard to imagine a more effective message about Swami Vivekananda’s teachings today. And good to recall that @INCIndia’s identification with Hindu liberalism is not a reaction to events in the last ten years, but a long-held conviction,” Mr. Tharoor said in the post on ‘X’.
Ms. Gandhi had also said India is secular primarily because Hinduism, both as a philosophy and as a way of life, has been based on what our ancients said, “Ekam Sat, Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti (truth is one, the wise pursue it variously).”
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To criticise the ideology of the right-wing, Ms. Gandhi had also recalled Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago, where he emphasised his pride in belonging to a religious tradition that taught people to accept all religious opinions as true, stating, “We do not merely tolerate all religions but accept them all to be true.”
AICC General Secretary Jairam Ramesh hailed Mr. Tharoor’s efforts, terming it “amazing archival research” and said it was timely too.
Sharing Mr. Tharoor’s post on ‘X,’ he said it was then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who declared 12th January as National Youth Day in honour of Swami Vivekananda, in 1985.
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