Cong needs to rethink the road it is taking for electoral victory

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 2/10/2019 2:44:40 PM

After 15 years, Madhya Pradesh was wrested from BJP by Congress. It was naive to believe that the change of power would also signal a halt to some of the hardcore Hindutva and essentially fascist policies followed by the BJP, especially in the last five years since BJP also came to power at the Centre. The rigid administrative systems get used to prescribed rigmaroles and become deeply entrenched in 15 years. The nuisance value of the fringe Hindutva groups would also continue to exert pressure on the government. These, however, are not the only reasons to be skeptical. Congress, on its path to victory in 2018 elections, used some of the Hindutva motifs to the hilt and upped the ante on cow politics by invoking cow shelters, cow protectionism and cow urine. Whether or not, such slogans helped fetch votes for Congress, the party now feels duty bound to unquestioningly follow the existing models of governance obsessed with cows, a kind of polity that pushes humans, particularly minorities, into playing a subservient role. If anyone had any delusions of optimism, they are now put to rest as Madhya Pradesh government under chief minister Kamal Nath has invoked the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against three persons arrested on charges of cow slaughter in the communally sensitive Khandwa town. Beyond following this tradition set by BJP of hounding Muslims, facing accusations of cow slaughter (often without any evidence) with charges of "terror acts", the Congress regime in Madhya Pradesh is in a far more pro-active mode in pursuing cow politics, perhaps in a bid to compete with the BJP. Recently Kamal Nath announced that 1,000 government-run cow shelters will be set up in the state within four months and several other cow welfare schemes are on the anvil for which the government is thinking of raising revenue by increased tax and cess.
The Madhya Pradesh experience is instructive about the pernicious and perilous repercussions of Congress strategy to use soft or hard-core Hindutva to compete with BJP. There is no empirical evidence to show whether this really does work as an election strategy. It would not be such an uncommon sense to presume that the hardcore Hindutva constituency would prefer a party that is genetically and ideologically bound to Hindutva ideology than an imitating other. Only those disenchanted by fake development promises of the BJP would fall back upon Congress or other parties. By raising the pitch on Hindutva itself, how does Congress expect to take a U-turn and go back on the promises that perpetuate the same fascist culture being imposed by the BJP and its right-wing allies.
It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that BJP's policies followed in the last five years are altering the very idea of India built in accordance with its lofty and liberal constitution. The spirit of the constitution emphasizes on the equality of all its citizens and the constitution stands on the bedrock of modern liberal values. The poison of hatred and intolerance now injected by the BJP and its supported fringe groups into the fabric of the society that was inherently and traditionally secular has adverse consequences that will take a long time to mend. Time is only secondary. Reversing that damage requires commitment, conviction and unflinching faith in the liberal values. There is thus need for a directional change in the discourse from Hindutva or Hindu first to equality, secularism and weeding out religion from politics. The Congress in its present avtar does not inspire hope.
Congress has been sailing in both boats. Its president Rahul Gandhi has been talking about both liberalism and social welfare and at the same time pandering to majoritarian Hindu sentiments by laboring to prove his Hinduness with visit to temples, religious pilgrimages and digging out his gotra. For argument sake, he may appear a cut above the BJP by propping up true and pacifist essence of Hinduism as opposed to hate-soaked Hindutva. The debate on Hinduism versus Hindutva in politics however is dubious not only in view of lack of clarity in Congress camp, which alternates between sobering and more rigid influence of religion, but for the simple reason that religion should have no role in politics in a secular democratic country. The Congress' hard labour to prove the Hindu-ness of Rahul Gandhi betrays its belief that only Hindus can rule this country. India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was conscious of the pitfalls of make religion central to politics and state's institutions and aware of the unfathomable abyss such a discourse would push the country into. He, therefore, chose the path of state's denial to patronize religions and religious practices or institutions. Much of Congress in the early days steered clear from such temptations. That policy and vision has today been forgotten.
What good would be achieved if BJP is replaced by Congress but the rhetoric of Hindu supremacy and Hindu symbols remain intact to haunt the secular fabric of the country. The BJP represents a fascist ideology where only the upper caste Hindus are supreme. By emulating similar ideas, even if in dilution, Congress invokes the threat of one fascist power replacing another. The capability of the Congress to undo the mess created by the BJP was always doubtful but what is shocking is that instead of even aspiring to undo that damage done to the social fabric and the country's institutions, Congress is embarking on a road where the same policies would be perpetuated to enable the journey of Hindutva march forward. This may be alright if Congress' only battle with BJP is to redeem power at the Centre. But if it is waging an ideologically battle to redeem the country's core values, it is surely on the wrong path. The Congress needs to reflect and make its choice clear. If it is the former option, it is best for the party to step back and allow the other secular groups and regional players to chart a new course for India. The country craves for the evolution of a new culture of politics, different from politics that is hinged to religion or pivoted around cult figures. The BJP's record on this count is pathetic. The Congress is unable to free itself from its misplaced beliefs and dilemmas.



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