Issues

Time Congress cemented its relationship with Muslims

It is becoming increasingly likely that India may soon witness fascism take the driver’s seat in Indian politics. At least, this is what the media is trying to make the nation believe. Thanks to the corporate-controlled media, BJP’s fascism is being kept hidden under the carpet of “Development”. What is worrying, however, is that Congress seems to have either given up or it is still in a state of denial. Congress senior leaders do not have the charisma that can match the “Modi onslaught”.

The unfortunate part is that the so-called Modi onslaught is nothing but a theatrical melodrama to appease the baser instincts of the people with very little substance in the content. With every speech, his speeches are becoming cheaper, unworthy of a prime ministerial aspirant. Still, the Congress leaders have shown their unwillingness to take him head-on.

Congress has become embedded in such a bureaucratic mindset in the last decade that they have forgotten politicking.

Bureaucrats are chosen by the state institutions and their role is to maintain the system. They are therefore answerable only to the system. Politicians are chosen by the people and are answerable to the people. Politicians are supposed to always maintain a direct and of course cordial relationship with the people. If the people are angry, it spells doom for the system as well as the politicians. But even if they are not angry, their lack of belongingness to the politicians or the political parties they represent is sure to have a negative impact. If we judge the UPA government on this yardstick, they have certainly not cleared the exams with distinction.

The performance of UPA has not been bad from normal standards. They have taken many revolutionary steps: RTI, RTE, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Act, to name a few. Several other welfare schemes have been announced. The growth, with all the ups and downs, has mainly been on the higher side. There has been relative peace in the country compared to 1990s. There have been no dissentions in the main political party that runs it.

Congress has been as solidly united as no other party in recent decades. Then what is the reason that the perception of the people, at least in some areas of the country, has become so poor about this government?

It can be argued that a smear campaign against it by the Opposition and the media has caused this slide in the perception. But if the opposition has succeeded on this front, there have to be reasons for this. Propaganda succeeds only when the counter-propaganda is weak.

What seems to have been failing the UPA government has been its failure to act politically. At best, UPA government, right from the Prime Minister to ministers, has acted in a bureaucratic mould. They do not seem to care for the support or the perception of the people. They do not try to reach the people. This is true for the Prime Minister, ministers, and members of Parliament of the ruling coalition belonging to any community or caste or region.

This in my view is the major reason why people are casting doubts about their emerging victorious in the coming elections.
The only person who appeared to change the scenario is Rahul Gandhi. Ever since he took over as Vice President of the party, he has tried to sound political. His speeches stressed the need of engaging with the masses, particularly the deprived and marginalised sections of society. His bold stand on Ordinance was the first truly political move made by a Congress leader in last many years. It produced the desirable impact. It was followed by some aggressive speeches in UP and Rajasthan. But Congress senior leaders have been so entrenched in bureaucratic mould that his politicking seemed to unnerve them.

First, the statements from the top leadership appeared to suggest that Rahul’s way of attack on the ordinance was wrong “even if his intention was right”. And once he made the ISI remark, Congress went into tizzy. Instead of seizing the opportunity and coming up with a clarification that would convince the nation that he sympathised with Muslims who are the biggest losers in riots and that the resulting anger gives the enemies of the country an opportunity to fish in the troubled waters, and if such an attempt is made, the fascist forces of Hindutva were solely responsible for this, Congress rank and file went on defensive.

The media and BJP who had started feeling unnerved by the newly-found aggressiveness in Rahul Gandhi’s style of functioning, got the opportunity to dampen his spirits. Since then, Rahul Gandhi seems to have given up his aggressiveness. The result is that Modi is again on the rise. He feels he has won the war. Now the markets have started behaving as if he has already become Prime Minister.

This is a disturbing scenario. Congress needs to come out of its slumber. It has already lost the support of Hindus (at least upper class) particularly in the cow belt. With the kind of media blitz and coordinated electioneering BJP leaders are engaged in, it is highly unlikely that these classes will change their choice till the elections.

It is high time Congress realised the urgency of cementing its ties with Muslims. It is not an unknown fact that Muslims are not happy with Congress. Congress has not only failed to keep up its promises, it has not so far shown any signs of offering them anything new. If many Muslims will still think of voting for Congress, it will be more out of their desire to keep BJP out than to bring Congress back.

In the last 20-25 years, Congress has lost its dominance in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar mainly because it has lost the confidence of Muslims there and backward classes have moved to local parties. If despite that, they have been able to regain power in the Centre, it was mainly because after the departure of V P Singh, the Third Front could not find a leader of national stature. If Congress can win the confidence of Muslims in UP and Bihar, sooner or later lower classes of Hindus and Brahamins would also join. If it doesn’t, even BJP will try to take advantage of the situation. Modi is already trying to change the general perception about him. He is not likely to win the support of the Muslim community in a big way in the near future but even if BJP wins the support of just 1-3 percent Muslims, in the current scenario, it could hit Congress badly. If BJP sincerely makes efforts to give up its old positions vis-à-vis Muslims, Congress can run into an identity crisis in coming years.

I don’t understand till when Congress would continue to bank on the fear factor. With the Hindu vote in the Hindi belt already glued to corporate-sponsored Modi-mania, it is high time Congress reestablished its old relationship with Muslims through strong and decisive steps. This author has already sent an agenda for 2014 to all political parties with proposals that would help not only Muslims but the whole nation in its march towards peace, progress and prosperity. Congress would do well if it makes the first move in accepting the proposals. This will not only help the party in a significant way in the coming elections, it can also establish a long term relationship between Congress and Muslims.

The one person who can make the move is none other than Rahul Gandhi. Instead of giving up his aggressiveness, he needs to be even more aggressive, albeit with the care it requires.

Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker and writer with over a dozen books including Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2014 on page no. 2

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