Who is Happy with Digvijay Singh?
Is former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress General Secretary, Digvijay Singh living dangerously? Or is he on high wire act secure of a safety net below? In other words does he have the support (and to what extent?) of the party High Command, particularly Congress President Sonia Gandhi?
It is generally believed that Rahul Gandhi supports him totally. That mother and son are sometimes gauged separately could well be a result of New Delhi’s grapevine mischief.
By his statements in recent months Digvijay Singh appears to be diligently erecting a platform which, in his view, is the only one on which the Congress should stand if it is in a serious quest of a comeback.
He spelt out this platform in a recent TV interview. He saw Jawaharlal Nehru as an anchor. The line then becomes clear. “The party must be secular, left-of-centre, pro poor” with an independent foreign policy – and all of this without any prejudice to economic growth.
There is nothing in these formulation that should invite a howl of protest. But whispering there will be for a variety of reasons. Congress leaders, on a slow trot, do not like anyone among them to break loose on a gallop. Also, if they have been managing national and state politics, sitting, proximate to the leader, in obsequious obedience, it is unlikely that they will gush forth with admiration if one among them unbends his back to talk.
What is most disconcerting is straight talk in a culture of double speak, dignified over the years as a form of clever politics. But clever for whom? Certainly not the Congress which came down to its lowest electoral performance on Congress President and Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s watch in the 1996 General Elections – 140 seats in a House of 545.
It is a long story but two landmarks can be cited en route the Congress’s current debilitations and which Singh is trying to address. After Indira Gandhi’s second coming in 1980, possibly in a state of funk after the 1977 defeat, Congress leaders began to lend their ear to the Sangh Parivar’s chant, risen to a crescendo in the classical style of propaganda, that Muslims were “appeased”. How “appeased” they were has been laid bare by the Sachar Committee report two years ago.
Hospitality to Parivar propaganda confirmed the reemergence in the Congress of a streak, a certain inclination. Soon after Nehru’s death, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri led the country to the 1965 war with Pakistan. During this war, Guru Golwalkar’s RSS volunteers were commandeered by the government for Civil Defence. Little wonder, BJP leader L.K. Advani, in his moment of exuberance, described Narasimha Rao as the best Prime Minister since Shastri!
A fear, real or simulated, that the Hindu would walk out on the Congress, led to an ambidextrous policy – open the locks of the temple at Ayodhya to please the Hindus; upturn the Shah Bano judgement to please the Muslims. The policy boomeranged resulting in the demolition of the Babari Masjid. The Muslim walked out on the Congress en masse. He flirted with caste and regional forces but, in the absence of secular options, has hovered on the edges of the Congress with Hamletian indecision.
Another factor, in fact a landmark, which has distanced the Muslim from the Congress, is the perceived insensitivity with which the UPA government joined the global anti terrorism chorus, in which the line between the Jehadi and the Muslim was increasingly blurred.
When George Bush enlisted Islamabad as its premier ally in the war on terror, New Delhi felt badly left out. Here was a victim of cross border terrorism since 1989, and Washington enlists the very source of terror as its anti terror ally. Washington’s explanation was that Islamabad had joined the “global” war on terror. New Delhi‘s plaint grew out of a longstanding “regional” quarrel, Washington said.
It was the charged, post 9/11, global anti Muslim atmosphere that encouraged the Gujarat 2002 pogrom. Worldwide pressure on Muslims, amplified by the media, generated Muslim anger in India too but which never exploded as mass terrorism.
Meanwhile, post Gujarat, political uses of terrorism were cunningly recognized. Acts of terror, pinned on the Muslims, would create a hothouse atmosphere, divisive, in which an over arching Hindu consolidation was possible.
It was part of this strategy that Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s Dargah in Ajmer, Samjhauta Express, Hemant Karkare, happened. Ofcourse it is the strength of Indian secularism that such mischief was investigated. Equally, there is this reluctance even among folks wearing the secular badge to discuss this kind of “embarrassment”.
It is here that Digvijay Singh (supported by Rahul Gandhi) has generated a debate where those wearing badges will have to wear them with commitment.
This is a departure from the recent Congress electoral politics of tactically changing platforms from state to state. The wizened voter, particularly Muslim, has seen through the Congress hypocrisy. The writing is on the wall.
To revert to the old Congress charter with a commitment to abide by it requires courage, a willingness to gamble the electoral future in 2014.
The party could well be shifting from tactics to strategy, a strategy predicated on the principle that he who is willing to sacrifice for a set of values will win the people.
But will this platform create a cleavage between the party and the government? I suppose in this season of scams that may well be a thought crossing minds inclined to protect the party.
A softened political atmosphere would not be congenial for terrorism to breed. What “terror” material would the intelligence agencies then furnish to their patrons at Langley? Malegaon?
There may also be some difficulties for the industry grown accustomed to the Congress and the BJP fighting electorally but putting their heads together in the House on Bills of interests to Industry.
Such considerations make “cowards of us all”. Will cowardice or courage prevail? Will the party proceed paraphrasing the Biblical dictum: he who is willing to lose will win!
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