India Today Panchayat: Rajdeep Sardesai and Prakash Raj have mastered the art of cankering a debate

On 31st March, India today broadcasted a show named ‘Karnataka Panchayat’, where a lot of key issues were to be discussed. A discussion on “The Culture Wars” comprised of a panel with Babul Supriyo and Malavika Avinash, representing the BJP, followed by Prakash Raj and Khushbu Sundar, on the other side. The discourse was “moderated” by Rajdeep Sardesai, although one could plausibly suggest that he was with the latter two.

When you devote a debate towards ‘culture’, I would expect you to ask critical questions to the state government about its stance with regard to ‘fault lines’ like that of caste, community, language and religion. But that soon translated to a poorly adjudicated discussion on very compelling issues.

To me, the most striking condition of the debate was the audience’s perpetual appreciation for Prakash Raj’s pseudo-analysis on issues. His shallow declarations did not suit for the ‘ profound’ and ‘calm’ person he projects himself to be. In fact, I was a little startled with how he appealed to the audience, despite contradictions in his ideas (which will be explored as the article progresses).

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The discussion began with Rajdeep asking Prakash Raj, as to what part of Hindutva upsets him. Prakash Raj’s response was rather ambiguous. He began by talking about what a “diverse” country India is and how it suits the nation. All this rhetoric, backed up by the claim that Hindutva is ‘uncultured’ and ‘ritualistic’ and has no place in India.

These are swooping generalisations, that deserves a little backing up. Rajdeep asked, what specifically makes Prakash Raj hate Hindutva?

Here is how he responded-

“You don’t talk about Hindutva, when somebody is speaking about the preamble of our constitution; you come and sprinkle gaumutra here. Then they should drink a glass of gaumutra everyday: it’s a ritual. You don’t say that to us. If Yogi ji is talking about Hindutva, and if one balika has been taken by a Muslim, he can’t say that we’ll bring 100 balikas (convert them).”

We need to be very clear, with what Prakash Raj was asked; he was questioned on why he specifically disliked Hindutva. What does he, in turn, tell us?

He tells us about Anantakumar Hegde asking for a change in the preamble of the constitution. He tells us about Yogi Adityanath’s remarks on conversion. Firstly, I cannot believe that the campaigner for questions and “just asking” hashtags, suddenly takes issue with two questions on the preamble.

But more importantly, Prakash Raj must remember that he cannot condemn Hindutva by quoting statements here and there because these remarks by no means define Hindutva. He tells us Hindutva cannot exist in India and backs that up by randomly picking incidents where “practitioners of Hindutva” say something condemnable. And he uses those words against the entire ideology. But that is not how it works.

When you propound the idea of Hindutva being unsuited to India, you need to have more to show, than condemning remarks by certain practitioners of ideology. If you really take issue with Hindutva, then oppose its fundamentals, instead of cherry picking incidents.

For instance, Mamata Banerjee and her party call themselves “secular” and “inclusive”. But when she banned Durga Visarjan, can I say that the secularism led to her banning it? Can I say secularism is unsuited to India?

Connecting the idea of secularism to a controversial action is just as bigoted as connecting the ideology of Hindutva to a condemnable remark.

And if Prakash really believes in attributing the ideology’s suitability to its adherents, why does he shy away from attributing a lot of the humanitarian aid done by the RSS during natural disasters? Surely then, using his logic, I could use the gestures to call Hindutva an altruistic ideology.

Unfortunately, Prakash Raj’s shallowness in terms of understanding the other side comes out explicitly when he tells us about his objection to the BJP’s Hindutva.

Speaking of ideology, have a look at this clip, where Prakash Raj assumedly “lashes out” at the BJP in the same debate.

REFERENCE 1:52-2:05

Notice how he says the “BJP has no ideology” and then in about 10 seconds, he says they “push their ideology onto us”. Prakash Raj needs to make up his mind: does the BJP lack ideology, or do they have a muscular ideology, which they “push onto others”?

Contradictions everywhere, with no resolution. I would tell you that there is nothing remotely reasonable in what he asserts. It actually looks like Prakash Raj lashes out, not at the BJP, but at his own words!

It did not take long for Khushbu Sundar to express her discontent with the government and support Prakash Raj. She emotively conveyed her thoughts on how the Modi government is “restricting her choice”, and that was a green signal for Rajdeep to bombard the floor with beef ban questions (but more on that later). Khushbu, in these exact words, said:

The BJP’s motto has been to propagate one nation and one religion; that has been the aim of the BJP, who have been propagating that. Secondly, we have seen BJP government in the past. We have seen a great leader and a wonderful statesman, such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee leading this country. We still consider him to be one of the best leaders of our country… We didn’t have this divide of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian then.

It is quite unfortunate that such mistaken impressions pass off as truth when conveyed emotively. Let us examine the logic behind this. Khushbu literally implies that India was a utopia before May 2014 and that it suddenly became a divided nation as the BJP came to power. Do not forget, 2008 (under the Congress regime) was the year with the most amount of instances of communal violence. Before the audience and Prakash Raj applaud Khushbu’s fallacies, I simply ask them: where was this beautiful, inclusive, pluralistic utopia in 2008? What happened to the utopia in Muzaffarnagar and loads of other incidents of hatred?

Secondly, the Congress party paints the picture of it being a “responsible opposition” that genuinely appreciates good leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Malavika Avinash rightly pointed out that the Congress party showed no hesitation when calling Vajpayee a fascist. Let us also not forget Sanjay Jha’s remark, calling him “the weakest prime minister India ever had”.

Guess what her response (that was thunderously applauded by the India Today audience) was. She said, “that way, even Amit Shah called Mahatma Gandhi a Chatur Baniya”.

Think about what that means.

She basically justifies calling Vajpayee a fascist and ‘ the weakest PM’, because Amit Shah called Gandhi a name, which was frankly, not even derogatory. Not even a denial when Malavika pointed out the fact that Congress criticises for the sake of criticising and that they never really had a firm stance on a person or an issue.

Today Mrs Sundar tells us that Vajpayee was one of the best; 3 years ago, the opposite was said by her party. So what credibility would a party with such a wishy-washy stance, have?

But if she really intends to play this game of whataboutery, I have a lot to say. For example, when she talks about communalism, I too can call out the shameful acts of provocation by the youth Congress workers in Kerala (where openly they butchered a calf on the road). Her response was that “they had been expelled”.

Let me tell Madame that expulsion requires being thrown out of the party. Forget being expelled, they were not even suspended from the party for a month! Is that how unaware (of the fallacies run by their party) the Congress spokespersons are?

It is even more saddening when moderators let it slide.

As the discussion continued, Babul Supriyo had said that mutual respect was necessary for a multicultural society. Citing the example of a pork shop not being opened in a Muslim area (for its believed impurity), he said that beef eaters needed to respect the constitution and Hindu community by not entertaining smuggling and slaughtering of cows.

Prakash Raj once again came back into the picture has a lot to say on “choice” and “his right to eat”. Rajdeep Sardesai too had backed him up, claiming victimhood for being called “anti-national due to eating beef”. Malavika Avinash quite simply responded by saying:

“There is a law in place in Karnataka against cow slaughter since 1960. We weren’t in power in 1960. Who made the law? It was the Congress government who made the law. You still want to slaughter cows? Go ahead. But you are breaking the law.”

She also happened to mention Mahatma Gandhi and his stance on cow slaughter. She said:

“Are you going to tell Gandhi not to have loved cows? He did believe that there should be no cow slaughter in this country. Was he not the greatest symbol of peace.”

I cringed at the response of Mr Sardesai when the point was brought up by Malavika. His exact response to Gandhi’s stance was:

“The same Gandhi said cow slaughter will not be a fundamental right. But it will be a directive principle. Read Gandhi Madam.”

Mister Sardesai has not understood the purpose of a directive principle. A directive principle is something that must be strived towards, by the state. Becoming the largest exporter of cow meat does not suit the criterion of being “strived towards”, especially when Mahatma Gandhi utterly condemned cow slaughter.

Another directive principle involving article 45 asks the state to provide compulsory education to all children up to 14 years of age. Does that mean that provision of education is only “directive principle”?

Obviously not. Just like education until a certain age, withdrawal of cow slaughter must be strived towards. Being the world’s largest exporter does quite the opposite.

There is a purpose behind analysing this debate. We must know that certain media houses wish to take voters away from the key issues that the state of Karnataka faces, during the time of elections. The entire discussion of Karnataka’s future must be discussed on the basis of the groundbreaking matters that impact citizens of the state. The moment an entire day of discourse, on this impactful state, is wasted on immaterial discussions, whataboutery and cherry-picked outrage, we need to object. Skewed moderators, and “activists” who claim to “represent the people’s views” should not be allowed to fool people by taking the discussion away from these questions.

The next time Prakash Raj claims to be “just asking”, we need to ask him where his questions went when the Siddaramaiah government divided Hindus. Or are those with his ideology ineligible to face his questions?

A teenager with fairly strong opinions on politics, religion, history and economics. Learner. Hoping to be a lawyer one day. Tweets at @AssertiveTeen

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