Any rigid secular approach, unrestrained by considerations of electoral politics, could only lead to disapproval of Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s demonstration of his religious faith and his characterisation of the Congress as a “party of Hinduism”. His approach has been widely termed “soft Hindutva”, and as an attempt to compete with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its game. Those who deride Hindutva and those who swear by it both consider Mr. Gandhi a poor imitator of it. Centrist politics by definition is vulnerable to criticism from radical perspectives of different hues — for instance, Marxist M.N. Roy, Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar and Hindutva proponent, and later his assassin, Nathuram Godse, were all critical of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of Hinduism. What is worth a closer analysis in the current context is the suggestion that the invocation of Hindu symbols for electoral gains is Hindutva, albeit a softer version. A clear trajectory Mainstream Indian nationalism and Hindu nationalism shared a range of symbols and personalities during their formative decades, and distinguishing one from the other can appear a challenging task often. Consolidation of the Hindu society was a preoccupation of several reformists and leaders of the struggle for independence, who were not linked to Hindutva. In a classic essay written in the 1990s, at the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, historian Sumit Sarkar marked the stages of the evolution of Hindu nationalism in two distinct phases: first from the use of the word Hindu as a geographical marker to ‘Hinduism’, an attempt to codify the cultural and religious practices, and then to Hindutva. Swami Vivekananda was the seer of the first shift. “Of the Swami’s address before the Parliament of Religions, it may be said that when he began to speak it was of the religious ideas of the Hindus but when he ended, Hinduism had been created,” wrote Sister Nivedita, the Swami’s closest disciple. Three decades later Veer Savarkar, who invented Hindutva, did not merely seek to unify Hindus, but tried to achieve it by imagining the other as those who do not consider India their sacred land. While secular nationalism’s adversarial image was imperialism, the edge in Savarkar’s Hindutva was against Muslims and Christians. Vivekananda’s Hinduism had no enemy figure. The political rise of Hindutva has been directly proportionate to the success of its proponents’ attempts to equate itself with Hinduism.