Congress President Rahul Gandhi recently declaring his gotra (sub-caste) during a temple visit in Rajasthan has become a reason for public ridicule of two cabinet ministers of the Narendra Modi government, namely Smriti Irani and Harsh Vardhan.
Gandhi, during a visit to poll-bound Rajasthan, Gandhi had travelled to Ajmer Sharif dargah before paying his visit to Pushkar temple. After his visit to Pushkar, the head priest of the temple told reporters that Gandhi had described his gotra as Dattatreya. Dattatreya, the priest had said, were Kauls and Kauls were Kashmiri Brahmins.’
This caused quite a flutter among Gandhi’s political rivals, particularly in the BJP, whose senior ministers reacted with lightening speed. Leading the pack was Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani, who had unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha elections against Gandhi from Amethi.
Irani, who is married to a Parsi, wrote about her gotra, “My gotra is Kaushal Sir as is my father’s as was his father’s and his father’s and his father’s…My husband and children are Zoroastrians so can’t have a gotra. The sindoor I wear is my belief as a practising Hindu. Now get back to your life.”
Irani was responding to a Twitter user who had asked if she cared to mention her own gotra adding that if the sindoor sported by her was part of her belief or a style statement.
My gotra is Kaushal Sir as is my father’s as was his father’s and his father’s and his father’s…My husband and children are Zoroastrians so can’t have a gotra. The sindoor I wear is my belief as a practising Hindu. Now get back to your life. धन्यवाद?
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) November 28, 2018
Irani was contradicted by own cabinet colleague Harsh Vardhan, who tweeted mocking the Parsi link of Rahul Gandhi without realising that Irani herself was married to a Parsi. Harsh Vardhan wrote, “Jawaharlal Nehru’sGotra was ‘Dattatreya’ because he was Brahmin.His sons would have inherited his Gotra. Indira Ji can’t transfer her father’s Gotra to her son.Thus RajivGandhi being son of a Parsi (Feroz Gandhi) can’t have Dattatreya Gotra. Let @RahulGandhi present his true identity.”
Jawaharlal Nehru’sGotra was ‘Dattatreya’ because he was Brahmin.His sons would have inherited hisGotra. Indira Jican’t transfer her father’s Gotra to her son.ThusRajivGandhi being son of a Parsi (Feroz Gandhi)can’t have Dattatreya Gotra.Let @RahulGandhi present his true identity
— Dr. Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) November 28, 2018
As if to compensate for his earlier tweet, Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests and Climate Change in the Modi government, posted another tweet, “I suggest @smritiirani Ji, Ignore and enjoy the destruction of Congress. People look for capability & credibility and never for caste,religion or race.”
But, by this time, Harsh Vardhan, had become a target of online criticism with journalists and activists questioning if educating India’s citizens on gotras was what a minister for science and technology’s core duty was under the Modi government. Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan wrote, “All.those fooled by the “Dr” in his name, please see what he is capable of. Sir, you are Science Minister in a Republic whose Constitution talks of promoting scientific temper. Dr Ambedkar, whose name BJP cynically invokes, spoke of annihilation of caste. Here you revel in gotra!” He was highlighting the irony of the minister’s qualification as a practicing doctor of medicine before joining the politics.
Journalist Rabons Abraham wrote, “Minister for Science and Technology giving gyan on how ‘gotra’ is transffered from one generation to aother. The irony here is he that Harsh Vardhan is a qualified doctor!”
Harsh Vardhan faced public ridicule by many more on social media.
Union Minister for Science and Technology, India. pic.twitter.com/YqOoyupKjP
— Joy (@Joydas) November 28, 2018
Meet Modi’s minister for science and technology https://t.co/X70eIqPkcL
— Shivam Vij (@DilliDurAst) November 28, 2018
Union Minister of Science and Technology.
India’s future is in safe hands. pic.twitter.com/zBQ8P70MgD
— Prerna Bakshi (@bprerna) November 28, 2018
Superbly explained in the most scientific manner! We really expect and deserve this from our science and technology minister. What's even more laudable is that Mr Minister has, in one fell swoop, demolished the stories floated by Right-wing groups that say Nehru was a Muslim. https://t.co/7jbigptPDK
— Manimugdha Sharma (@quizzicalguy) November 28, 2018
Gandhi stating his gotra during one of his temple visits followed by two cabinet ministers joining the debate on castes highlighted the sad reality of the Indian electoral politics, where religion has become more important issue for politicians than providing good governance.