“I am a Brahmin and I am the Congress general secretary,” said Rahul Gandhi during a review meeting of the abysmal results in the Uttar Pradesh elections, after the Brahmin lobby reportedly tried to pin the blame the debacle on the party’s aggressive wooing of the minorities and other castes.
What’s the connection? Is it to say I am a Brahmin, a superior caste and therefore, you guys jolly well not throw muck at me. Or is it to say `my folks’ have no clout in the electoral process in UP so I plead not guilty. Or is it to say that I understand the ways of God better than my colleagues and whatever shall be, shall be.
But just for argument sake, how is Rahul technically speaking, a `Brahmin’. Yes, his great grandfather Pt Nehru was a Kashmiri Pandit but his grandfather Feroze Gandhi was a Parsi and that takes care of the father’s side of his family. His mother is an Italian-turned-Indian Christian so the Brahminical DNA is largely reduced.
What’s interesting is that his statement coincided with the Congress attempt in Andhra Pradesh to dilute Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s Reddy status. At least three Congress Reddy leaders, all from Rayalaseema region pointed out that Jagan, just like YSR before him, is a practising Christian and therefore cannot be considered a leader of the Reddy community. Veteran Congressman from Anantapur, J C Diwakar Reddy led the charge, claiming Jagan does not follow any customs of the Reddy community and therefore can’t claim to be one. This doosra, bowled before the byelections, the Congress hopes, would help the Congress Reddys woo back the Reddy votebank to the party. If life and politics was as simple.
To put it bluntly, in Andhra Pradesh, Christianity is not seen as a `hate’ religion and does not arouse extreme passions, that friction with the Muslim community does for the Hindu community. Everyone knew YSR and family were regulars at the Church on Sundays but did not object to the late chief minister’s regular visits to Tirumala temple. Yes, admittedly, Jagan is a more devout Christian, his mother is never seen in public without the Bible in her hands and in his speeches, Jagan prefers to use a Christian `Devudu’ to a Hindu `Bhagvantudu’. His brother-in-law Brother Anil Kumar is a regular figure at evangelical sabhas.
Political analyst Prof K Nageshwar doesn’t think this Christian tagging of Jagan would quite work for the Congress. His argument is that the Reddy voters are not quite interested in the purity of Reddys but only in the political hegemony of the community. So the leader of the pack can well be a hybrid Reddy like Jagan as long as he also fancies himself as a Reddy leader.
Also this strategy is fraught with electoral danger as many of the constituencies going to bypolls are in coastal Andhra, that has a significant electorate of Dalit Christians. They are not likely to take kindly to aspersions cast on a convert to Christianity. Also YSR Congress leaders say they would end up raking up Sonia Gandhi’s nationality issue if the Congress continues to make this an election issue.
Interestingly, the BJP and the Sangh Parivaar which is normally quick to point out such aspects, is silent on the matter. One reason could be that in a post 2014 election scenario, an MP-rich Jagan may just be what the doctor would order for the NDA, never mind his pro-UPA posturing at the moment.
For those outside Andhra Pradesh, the Reddy community has been the backbone of the Congress in the state, with most of its chief ministers hailing from the community. In fact, one of the principal reasons why Kiran Kumar Reddy was chosen as CM after Rosaiah, was his surname. Delhi assumed he would be able to stop Jagan from playing Pied Piper to the Reddys. The results to the byelections in 18 assembly and one Lok Sabha seat will prove if this Congress tune is music to the Reddy community ears.