Noted historian and author, Ramachandra Guha, during his talk, 'Patriotism vs Jingoism' at the Kerala Literature Festival 2020, said that a "fifth-generation" dynast like Rahul Gandhi had no chance in Indian politics against "hard-working and self-made man" like Narendra Modi. He further said that Kerala had done a disastrous thing by electing Gandhi to Parliament.
Guha said that the reduction of Congress from a 'great party' during freedom struggle to a 'pathetic family firm' was one reason why Hindutva and jingoism were on the rise.
"Modi's great advantage is that he's not Rahul Gandhi. He's self-made. He has run a state for 15 years, has administrative experience, he is incredibly hard-working and never takes holidays in Europe. Believe me, I am saying this in all seriousness," he'd said.
Guha also said that even if Gandhi was "much more intelligent, more hard-working, never took a holiday in Europe, as a fifth-generation dynast he'll still be at a disadvantage against a self-made person."
Given the way Guha's remarks were reported in several news outlets, he can be wrongly mistaken to be softening his stand towards BJP. This becomes contentious, especially at a time when BJP is being criticised for its curb on dissent and high-handed approach towards minorities.
Several Twitter users criticised Guha for change in his stance and 'praising' PM Modi.
"If you Malyalis make the mistake of re-electing Rahul Gandhi....." says Brutus. Fork tongued as always.— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) January 18, 2020
Ramchandra Guha takes a complete U TURN !— Karuna Gopal (@KarunaGopal1) January 18, 2020
He praises Modi and gives a mouthful to Sonia & Rahul ! What's happening folks 😁https://t.co/2wsP5c4dhJ
Guha's comments were also criticised by Kerala Congress MP Shashi Tharoor who said that the former Congress chief has an alternative vision for India in Rahul Gandhi's defence.
Thanks for the clarification, @Ram_Guha. I'm sure you aren't elevating PM's capacity for hard work above its actual divisive consequences for the nation! Whatever you think about @RahulGandhi, he embodies an alternative vision of India that many millions support in resisting BJP https://t.co/XNy6YZjpfH— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 18, 2020
While the crux of Guha's remarks remains the same, it would be erroneous to read his comments as signalling his support for BJP given the contents of his entire KLF speech, and his past stands against BJP and its Hindutva agenda. A selective reporting obscures the fact that Guha has been and continues to be a critic of the BJP.
Thus, Ramachandra Guha took to Twitter to clarify his stand. Calling the controversy a "kerfuffle", Guha said his speech was reported in a "slanted and selective" manner. He sought to clear his views on Rahul, Modi and Hindutva. He also posted the complete video of his KLF speech in defence of constitutional patriotism against the horrors of Hindutva.
My talk was a defence of constitutional patriotism against Hindutva jingoism. I am sorry that a reporter has cherry picked two sentences out of a one hour talk to distort its meaning. https://t.co/9RDFolywWk— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) January 18, 2020
Guha wrote, "His lack of focus and administrative experience and, most importantly, his being a fifth-generation dynast are a great disadvantage for Rahul. That said, it was patronising of me to chastise Malayalis for sending him to Parliament."
He further remarked how in a 'Presidential' style General Elections, the electorate tended to prefer Modi over Rahul because the former is more experienced and a self-made politician. He added that he'd been an implacable critic of Modi's policies and the Hindutva project as manifested in his article, books, tweets and speeches.
Labelling Modi-Shah regime as the most dangerous and divisive that India has known, he wrote, "They've promoted religious polarisation and made minorities deeply insecure. They've intimidated press and judiciary, and made all government departments instruments of party politics."
The Modi-Shah regime is the most dangerous and divisive the Republic has known. They have promoted religious polarization and made minorities deeply insecure. They have intimidated the press and judiciary, and made all government departments an instrument of party politics. 5/7— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) January 19, 2020
Guha commented that the peaceful anti-CAA protests had deeply inspired him. Calling the students wonderful, he said they'd broken the pall of fear. He further called for opposing the Modi-Shah regime with resolution, courage and non-violence.