Fact checking Amit Shah: Yes, Congress had an ideological basis and it was neo-Hinduism

When the Congress was formed in 1885, its immediate motive was not independence. Rather its intent was to form a political arm that would mediate between the British authorities and the demands of the Indians.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: June 12, 2017 5:03 pm
Amit Shah, Amit Shah on Gandhi, Amit Shah on Congress, Amit Shah speech on Congress, Mahatma Gandhi, Congress, BJP, BJP president, Bhartiya Janata Party, BJP news, India news, Indian Express Congress did have an organisational principle, which was based on the political necessities of the time. (Wikimedia Commons)

Analysing the origins of the Congress party, BJP president Amit Shah on Friday claimed the party had no ideological basis and was a “special purpose vehicle” to secure freedom. “Congress kisi ek vichaar dhaara ke adhaar par, kisi ek siddhant ke adhaar par bani hui party hi nahi hai, woh azadi prapt karne ka ek special purpose vehicle hai, azadi prapt karne ka ek saadhan tha. (Congress was not based on any ideology or principle. It was a special purpose vehicle to gain independence),” said Shah. He further went on to claim the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was aware of the internal chaos within the Congress party and hence wanted it dissolved soon after independence. As per the BJP stalwart, unlike the Congress, the BJP had a clear objective and higher democracy within its organisation.

The issue with political principles is that it can never be isolated from the historical circumstances in which they were formed. Shah’s remark on the party does have a grain of truth. The Congress was indeed the political organisation at the forefront of the nationalist struggle. However, an in-depth analysis of the origins of the party would show that the Congress did have an organisational principle, which was based on the political necessities of the time. While Shah is not accurate when he says that the Congress was not based on any kind of principles, he is also missing out on the fact that just like the Congress, the BJP’s ideology was also rooted in the time at which it was formed.

Amit Shah, BJP, narendra modi, Congress, Amit Shah BJP, Congress BJP, india news, indian express BJP president Amit Shah on Friday claimed the party had no ideological basis and was a “special purpose vehicle” to secure freedom.

Ideological foundation of the Congress

Founded in December 1885 under the guidance of retired British officer AO Hume, the Congress was the largest political organisation of its time. Its establishment in the late nineteenth century was rooted in the need for building a communication bridge between the British and those Indians who had been educated in the Western mode of thought. Consequently, it was also a product of the efforts of those Indians who had undergone a European model of education and were fighting a cultural crisis to come to peace with the inner contradictions between European ideologies and traditional Indian values.

Also read: Amit Shah on Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Bahut chatur baniya tha… he could presage Congress’ bleak future’

It is accurate to say that people from a large number of cultural and political background came together under the banner of the Congress. However, there was one common thread that tied them all, the fact that all of them belonged to the class of Western-educated elite, who became the intermediary between the natives and the British. As noted by historian W Travis Hanes III, such cross-cultural synthesis was a common feature in most intermediary organisations formed between the colonisers and the colonised.

Amit Shah, Amit Shah on Gandhi, Amit Shah on Congress, Amit Shah speech on Congress, Mahatma Gandhi, Congress, BJP, BJP president, Bhartiya Janata Party, BJP news, India news, Indian Express Allan Octavian Hume (Wikimedia Commons)

In the case of India, this class of intermediaries came under the suspicion of the British soon after the 1857 revolt and were particularly barred from rising in administrative jobs despite having the requisite qualifications. In addition to the professional frustrations, the other complexity faced by the Western-educated Indians was that in the process of being introduced to European ideas like liberty and equality, they faced a crisis in terms of respecting their own cultural ethos. Resulting from this cultural crisis were the neo-Hinduism movements, that sought out the best within traditional Hindu value systems, reforming them in a way to bring them closer to European thoughts.

The Indian National Congress was a political product of the Hindu reform movements and in particular derived its inspiration from the Theosophical Society of India founded by Madam H.P. Blavatsky. The tenets of the Theosophical society that were originally formulated in America, appealed to social reformer Britons in India like Hume who went on to help in the formation of the Congress. At the same time, Blavatsky’s ideologies came across as attractive to the Western-educated Indians as well for the reason that it helped in solving their cultural crisis. While the Theosophical society was based on spirituality, Blavatsky maintained that the source of ancient wisdom was to be found in India. “It has been discovered that the very same ideas (as those the occultists had traced back to ancient Egypt), may be found in Buddhistic and Brahmanical literature,” she said. This notion of modern spirituality being sourced out of Indian traditions gave a validity to the traditional value systems of the Western-educated elite in India, a number of whom went on to join the Theosophical Society.

Further, the Theosophical Society also provided the ideological basis of religious unity by extending its message on spirituality to all other religions in India. The British often criticised India’s multi-religiosity as being the biggest hindrance to achieving a unified nationality status. The Theosophical Society provided the suitable response to this argument.

Amit Shah, Amit Shah on Gandhi, Amit Shah on Congress, Amit Shah speech on Congress, Mahatma Gandhi, Congress, BJP, BJP president, Bhartiya Janata Party, BJP news, India news, Indian Express Theosophical Society, Adyar, India, 1890 (Wikimedia Commons)

While in the beginning the Theosophical Society was restricted to the philosophical sphere, by virtue of its appeal to the educated elite in India, the organisation soon enough found itself providing a background to a political movement. As noted by political scientist Mark Bevir, “the importance of neo-Hinduism appears in the way the Theosophical Society provided the framework for action, within which some of its Indian and British members worked to form the Indian National Congress”. When the Congress was formed in 1885, its immediate motive was not independence. Rather its intent was to form a political arm that would mediate between the British authorities and the demands of the Indians.

Ideological foundation of the BJP

While the Congress was formed on the basis of the Hindu reform movements of the late nineteenth century, the BJP was also formed on the basis of the ideological processes of its time. The BJP’s origins lie in the Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS) founded by Shyama Prasad Mookherjee who broke away from the Congress in 1951 due to ideological conflicts with Nehru. Basing itself on the need for preserving Hindu cultural traditions and countering what they believed were Muslim appeasement policies of the Congress, the BJS was formed in collaboration with the Hindutva organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Amit Shah, Amit Shah on Gandhi, Amit Shah on Congress, Amit Shah speech on Congress, Mahatma Gandhi, Congress, BJP, BJP president, Bhartiya Janata Party, BJP news, India news, Indian Express After the dissolution of the Janata Party government,Advani along with Vajpayee helped in the establishment of the Bhartiya Janata Party as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The BJS held strong protests against the Emergency imposed by Congress leader Indira Gandhi and collaborated with other opposition parties to form the Janata Party. Due to political disagreements within the party, it dissolved in 1980 and majority of its members formed the BJP. The 1980s being a time of large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots, the BJP found its ideological basis in the hardline Hindutva model, particularly rooted in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

Formed soon after Independence, the BJS’ ideology needs to be located in the fact that it was largely shaped by the atmosphere of religious strife that existed in the years following Partition. As the party remodelled itself to form the Janata Party and then the BJP, its core principle remained the same, fighting for the preservation of a Hindu cultural identity.

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  1. S
    Santanu Roy
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:59 pm
    I don't think Theosophical Society did have much of an influence in the making of Congress.It was political counterpart of Brahmo Samaj,fired as rightly stated by the author by western idealism and supposed to work as a safety valve so that a repeat of 1857 like mutiny never happens again.Ga ndhiji turned it into a mass swadeshi organization.Also the author fails to mention the contribution of giants like Dadabhai Nouroji.R C majumdar,Tilak.Gokhale in the metamorphosis of Congress.Gandhiji shed tears reading R C Majumdar's treatise "EConomic History of India" and in political areas he was a disciple of Gokhale
    Reply
    1. M
      md qadeer
      Jun 14, 2017 at 12:10 am
      Atleast he agree that Congress formation lies on the basis of freedom unlike BJP which forms nd consolidate on the basis of communal theatrics. Shame on u shah, nd ur party, u guys destroy India nd calling names to others. But bhakts won't understand your theatrics now because they were blindly believing u nd your party, but they get to know soon, nd the bhakts who are praising u now after realising your face they themself kicks you nd your party out of the country.
      Reply
      1. S
        Shrikant
        Jun 13, 2017 at 5:48 pm
        After India got independence Mahatma Gandhi told then congress leaders to dissolve the Congress party. But Nehru did not accept he. He wanted to encase the name of congress and win vote to remain in power. So what Amit Shah told was correct, but using the word charge Bosnia may not be in good test.
        Reply
        1. V
          Vidhya Vidhya
          Jun 13, 2017 at 5:20 pm
          At present situation Modi-ji and Amith Sha made best ways to reach BJP to develop this country and saved form congress of Nehru family. As a citizen must realise the status of our recent developments and make their votes to right ways. I hope this country will go to drive best ways further under Modi-ji government.
          Reply
          1. S
            SP
            Jun 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm
            The article while rich in detail omits two important things. Over the years Congress stoped being elitist and transformed into a m movement. Not just hi but other leaders like Tilak, Netaji Bose and Patel contributed to this. Even RSS founder parti ted in freedom movement under Congress, so did RSS workers. The BJS was independently formed by Shyam Praaad Mukherjee which converged with RSS. Here again there are multiple lines of thought including those of Savarkar who was jailed for years in Andaman and Nicobar, again for freedom movement. The narrative that nobody from RSS or BJS for freedom was wrong as all Indians fought under Congress umbrella. There were definitely issues with hi's approach which had seeds of appea t philosophy starting with his support for Khilafat and his fasts stopping Hindus but not Muslims ans so on. In reality both Muslim League as well as BJS were fil white space created or vacated vy hi.
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            1. H
              HOMER
              Jun 13, 2017 at 11:47 am
              So in short NEHRU'S congress and the Congress before HIJI was a party created to serve the British agenda. While the BJP was born to preserve our ancient culture and traditions! GUESS WHICH ONE IS GOOD FOR INDIA?
              Reply
              1. H
                HOMER
                Jun 13, 2017 at 11:18 am
                The writer claims "European ideas like liberty and equality, ..." Does he really know what he is talking about? Does he know the idea of equality existed in India when the Europeans were still grunting and living in s? Does he know women did not have EQUAL rights? Does he know there was a well defined CL system in Europe? Does he know the need to be the intermediary between Europeans and Indian coconuts IS NOT AN IDEALOGY? BUT THEN A BENGALI WRITER IS BOUND TO WRITE LIKE A BORN SLAVE AND A CONGRESS SYCOPHANT !
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                1. K
                  kaushik shah
                  Jun 13, 2017 at 9:51 am
                  in nutshell, congress was for western educated Indians to help britishers for their mutual gain to modify Hindu philosophy. BJP and earlier version is to preserve great Hindu heritage. Narendra Modo is the first prime minister not educated by western school. hi was right in saying to dissolve the congress so that we become free in thinking from western style and choose our own path.
                  Reply
                  1. H
                    HOMER
                    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:22 am
                    YOU PERFECTLY ANALYZED WHAT THE 'IDEALOGY' OF CONGRESSMEN WAS AND REMAINS! COCONUT (Brown outside, white inside) DRONE SERVANTS OF THE BRITISH AGENDA TO DESTROY THE SUPERIOR INDIAN CULTURE AND DOMINATE TO EXPLOIT!
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