Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said offering voters some sort of “Hindutva Lite” will not help revive the party in the Hindi heartland, reported PTI. He added that such an attempt would only lead to the party becoming “Congress zero”. Tharoor made the comments ahead of the launch of his latest book The Hindu Way: An Introduction to Hinduism.

“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,” he told the news agency. “If the voter is presented with a choice between the original article and a pale imitation, he will choose the original every time.”

Tharoor urged his party to stand up for what it has always believed in, and said it should not be intimidated by the BJP’s success. “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’,” he added.

The 63-year-old Congress leader said that as a cautious optimist he would argue that there were enough like-minded Indians, including the youth, committed to resisting recent “chauvinistic trends”. They would continue to ensure that a “distorted idea of India” does not prevail, Tharoor added. He compared the idea of Hindus propagated by the BJP and its allies to the team identity loyalty of the “British football hooligan”.

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“The faith is not a monolith – you are free to choose what set of beliefs you believe in, which manifestations of the divine you choose to worship and on what days, which of multiple sacred books to choose from, what convictions you would like to hold dear, and ultimately, equally free to reject any assumptions or requirements that do not sit well with your worldview,” Tharoor said.

The Congress leader said the beauty of Hinduism was that “we have no Pope to lay down the law, no imams issuing fatwas as to what constitutes true beliefs, no single sacred text from which deviations are impermissible”. “There is no such thing as a Hindu heresy,” he added.

Last month, Tharoor came under fire from his own party for supporting party colleague Jairam Ramesh’s statement that the Congress should stop demonising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress leader had claimed that he had argued for six years that the prime minister should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, thereby adding credibility to the Opposition’s criticisms whenever he errs. A few days later, the party accepted his explanation for the comments.

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