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February 6, 1998


Fuzail Jafferey

Sonia's lies and regret won't fool Muslims

The Congress has brought out not just the proverbial cat from its torn bag, but two: Sonia Gandhi, and the party manifesto. It remains unclear whether it is Sonia who is utilising the Congress to preserve her interests in the country, or whether the dying Congress is using her to get a fresh lease of life.

Congress leaders, who had been caught up in the hustle and bustle of factional fights, and who gave the appearance of suffering from a terminal disease, suddenly feel rejuvenated. After persistently refusing to join politics for seven long years, Sonia has taken upon herself the responsibility of bringing the Congress back to power because, in her opinion, no other political party is capable of giving the country an "efficient, clean and stable government."

Congress members, on the other hand, are sure that the charisma Sonia inherits from the Nehru-Gandhi family will work wonders for the party. Congress president Sitaram Kesri, who after being humiliated by 10 Janpath on numerous occasions, was so overwhelmed to share the platform with Sonia at an election rally in Rohtak, that he proclaimed her as the country's next prime minister.

Large crowds are reportedly attending Sonia's election meetings. It is still too early to predict how much of the large rallies will translate into votes for the Congress. Most of them do not even understand what 'Madam' says in her sermons, which rarely last beyond six to eight minutes.

The minority community, which is rightly or wrongly considered to be responsible for the electoral defeats inflicted upon the Congress between 1993 and 1996, has become a valuable commodity event for Sonia, who is totally ignorant of the real problems of the Indians Muslims. It is common knowledge today that the Congress, during its 45 years of rule, never encouraged the minority community to become equal citizens and overcome their social and economic backwardness. Sonia knows little about these bitter realities. Her knowledge of Muslim problems seems to be restricted to the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque.

Sonia's claim in Hyderabad that a month before his assassination, her husband Rajiv Gandhi had told her that he would sacrifice his life to save the Babri mosque, is not only concocted but can easily be described as the joke of the century. How can Muslims forget that it was Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, who ordered the unlocking of the mosque to allow pujas, and that too without any demand from the Hindus.

Rajiv started his 1989 election campaign from Ayodhya and promised to usher in Ram rajya if voted to power. Rajiv was not 'communal in the sense that we understand. However, he was clearly extremely keen to snatch the initiative from the Bharatiya Janata Party and play the majority card in order to retain power. That is why he openly encouraged the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal to perform the shilanyas ceremony at the dilapidated Babri Masjid.

Sonia's speech in Hyderabad was reportedly drafted by the former bureaucrat and ex-ambassador to the United States, Dr Abid Hussain, who hails from Hyderabad and is currently vice-chairman of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The old man just might lose his lucrative prestigious job after the election for making the lady put her foot in her mouth! The exploitation of the Ayodhya issue for electoral gains has further distanced Muslims from Sonia, who were already upset with her for not uttering a word of protest when the mosque was destroyed in December 1992. Even BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee had termed the event as "most tragic".

Precisely speaking, our 'Lady of Italy' has miserably failed in garnering Muslim sentiments in the Congress favour. Her status of widow can have only limited impact on Muslim votes as thousands of Muslim women were widowed during the riots that kept breaking out during Congress rule, both before and after the Babri Masjid was destroyed. The Congress government at the Centre and in the affected states not only remained silent, some party members actually colluded with those who had engineered the riots that followed the mosque's destruction.

The Congress decision not to nominate former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao will certainly please many Muslims, since the former is considered primarily responsible for not preventing the demolition. But what Muslims fail to understand is why similar treatment has not been meted out to Arjun Singh and Sharad Pawar, both of whom reaffirmed their confidence in Rao during a Cabinet meeting in December 1992. Not one Congress minister, including C K Jaffer Sharief and Ghulam Nabi Azad, resigned from the Cabinet in protest against the demolition, thought they are all now busy apologising to the country for what happened.

Muslims are wise to see through this hypocritical facade of secularism. Moreover, the assertion of Congress spokesman Pranab Mukherji that Rao has not been singled out because of the 'demolition' has only angered the community further and alienated it from the Congress. It is, therefore, not surprising that even traditional Congress sympathisers like Maulana Abdul Hasan Nadvi, Maulana Azad Madani and Maulana Kalb-e-Sidiq have still not come out in favour of the party.

The promises made to the minority community in the Congress manifesto are nothing but a bundle of lies and fake assurances aimed at grabbing the lost Muslim vote bank. The party which could not make Hindi India's national language for practical purposes in the last 50 years, is now promising to accord Urdu 'national status'. Urdu-speaking Muslims want justice to be done to Urdu, but have never demanded any national status for it. Urdu is not the language of the Muslims alone, neither is it the language of all the country's Muslims.

The promise to create a separate ministry for Muslims is undemocratic, unconstitutional and even anti-Muslim. If adopted, such a measure will put the Muslims out of the social and political mainstream. Muslims want their equal share in the nation's destiny; they do not want to be treated as a protected species. In short, Muslims are bound to vote keeping in view their long-term interests, and the Congress simply does not fit into their present framework.


Fuzail Jafferey

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