Friday, December 21, 2012

Does The Congress Confront The BJP Or Condone It?

Does The Congress Confront The BJP Or Condone It?
                                                                                            Saeed Naqvi

Elections in Himachal Pradesh were, in context and content, totally different from Gujarat. Virbhadra Singh’s generally untainted image drove the Congress to victory. It is interesting that the BJP, defeated in this election, does not have a “communal” persona in the state. There is just no Muslim presence in the state to generate a need for communal politics. A BJP minus communalism is a unique phenomena.

In the two Hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, there is another detail worth noting: a Thakur will be the Chief Minister in one and a Brahmin in the other with more or less regular frequency.

Gujarat is a totally different story. I wonder if it is all that ironical, but the land of Mahatma Gandhi has always lent itself willingly to communal violence. Frontier Gandhi Badshah Khan parked himself at Gujarat Governor Shriman Narayan’s house in Ahmedabad for weeks to monitor the aftermath of the 1969 riots which left him in a state of shock.

Anti Sikh riots, the 1993 Mumbai riots and countless others could not have happened without State help, but Narendra Modi, in 2002, raised the pattern of rioting to state sponsored genocide. The Hindu consolidation thus managed, became the base on which he structured an efficient system of administration which the country’s major industrialists, the media and, by sheer incantation, others, have declared as being terrific.

There must be something to it otherwise Modi would not have won three elections in a row. With each victory, every chant of “lets move on”, Time, the great healer, has made the memory of 2002 that much more faint. As temperate texts teach us: in geological time, graves disappear, making space for Man’s other works.

The debate on the Gujarat verdict is interesting. In the grand pageant of democracy, Secular India and Saffron India, are arguing and jousting, even as inch by inch the area of overlap between the two sides grows, like lengthening shadows over a pitch.

It is a largely intra-Hindu tussle, a debating spectacle which the world’s second largest Muslim population is watching increasingly from the sidelines.

The current Congress line is: if it speaks up for the Muslims, the Hindu starts drifting away. It is this mindset which caused the Congress in the recent campaign not to mention 2002; it did not point fingers at Modi’s candidates who participated in the carnage. In brief don’t provoke the Hindu.

Has the Congress forgotten how from having two seats in 1984, the BJP has become the party which consistently threatens the Congress? Some common facts to refresh the memory.

When Rajiv Gandhi came to power in December 1984 with an unprecedented 404 seats in a House of 545, advisers like Arun Nehru thought there was enough in the bank to take a few risks.

In October 1984, Hindu radical groups had launched an agitation in Ayodhya to “open the locks” of the Ram temple. The temple was claimed on the same spot where the Babri mosque stood. Note one false step after another.

In February 1986 an over confident Congress opened the locks to please the Hindus. Then, to humour the Muslim, Rajiv Gandhi upturned the Supreme Court verdict on the Shah Bano case. A supposedly ambidextrous policy caused the party to fall between stools. It continued to compound the blunder by allowing the foundation of the Ayodhya temple to be laid exactly on the spot where the VHP wanted it. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao carried this policy to new heights by sleeping through the demolition of the Babri Masjid, causing the Muslim vote to walk out on masse.

That is where the two parties stand to this day, locked in slow moves, like wrestlers, each trying to tire the other out.

Is there a way out for the Congress? Ofcourse there is. Shed the low politics of dishonesty and deceit which only enables the cockroaches around the leadership to survive as a coterie even as the fortunes of the party dwindle. The cockroach will survive under the furniture even when the leadership is in the opposition.

The party must rediscover its élan. It must stand on a liberal, genuinely secular platform and be prepared, if need be, to lose an election, remembering the Biblical paradox: “He who loses shall gain”.

Otherwise, in years to come, the schoolboy rhyme will be apt for the two parties.

In form and feature, face and limb,
                  One grew so like the other,
That folks were utterly confused
                  ‘tween him and his twin brother!

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