Digvijay Singh’s questions on Rahul’s leadership, Antony’s on Congress’s secularism are all red herrings, says Virendra Kapoor.
It is hard to believe that Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says what he means. He is prone to undermine his own credibility by claiming that he was wrongly quoted or interpreted. However, very often the motive behind his utterances might be to test public reaction.
Since Singh is the most loquacious among the party functionaries, he does feel obliged to say something even if he has nothing meaningful to say. Take the latest gem from him. A couple of days ago, he remarked that Rahul Gandhi lacked the determination to lead. Could not have agreed more with him.
For, taken literally that claim suggested that the Gandhi scion was wasting everyone’s time by virtually helming the Congress party, a view widely shared by ordinary Indians of all denominations and educational and socio-economic backgrounds. For, only someone who had the requisite drive and determination to succeed could hope to lead the country. On the present reckoning, every Congressmen would privately agree with Singh that Rahul lacked what it takes to win back power for them.
But, predictably, Singh beat a hasty retreat the next day when others in the party countered that Rahul had the requisite leadership qualities and that the party had full faith in him. Now, Singh ate crow, saying that Rahul was more interested in fighting injustice and misrule than hankering after power. If the purpose behind Singh’s original statement was to paint Rahul as a selfless leader, Singh failed completely. Instead, he reignited debate about the Gandhi scion’s insipid and uninspiring leadership.
However, one thing was certain. Since his sole claim to fame rests on his loyalty to the Gandhis, Singh cannot be really raising the banner of revolt against Rahul Gandhi. No. But he was certainly sowing seeds of further confusion in a party which already looks completely lost and anchorless, especially after the sound drubbing in the Lok Sabha poll. Notably, when senior party functionaries lack clarity and coherence it reflects poorly on the top leadership of the party. Maybe the prevailing confusion is merely a reflection of the current rudderless state of the Congress Party due to the failure of the Gandhis to provide purposeful leadership to the demoralised flock.
How clueless is the entrenched party leadership can be gauged from another statement from another Congress leader. This time it is A K Antony, who is neither known for his leadership nor for his ministerial competence, owing his position of pre-eminence only to his proximity to the Gandhis. He stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest by publicly admitting that the Congress’s widely perceived pro-minorities tilt might be the reason for the alienation of the majority community from the party. Though his remarks were made in the context of his home state, where the Muslims and Christians number 26 percent and 20 percent respectively, these could well be true of the country as a whole.
The veteran BJP leader L K Advani was quick to seize upon Antony’s remarks, to read in them an endorsement of his own well-known critique of the Congress’s secularism. Speaking at a conclave of the newly-elected party MPs, Advani commended Antony for speaking up, reiterating his stand that ‘secularism should mean justice for all, appeasement of none, discrimination against none…’
But the veteran BJP leader seemed to be in a hurry to credit Antony for appreciating the real meaning and import of secularism. We are afraid Advani was wrong.
For just about the time Antony was doing loud thinking about the reason why the majority community in Kerala was veering away from the Congress in Kerala, the Congress chief minister in Maharashtra was unveiling his neat little scheme for ensnaring the Muslim voters by dangling the carrot of reservations in view of the coming assembly polls in the state.
Even though the promise of five percent reservations in government jobs and educational institutions might remain unfulfilled, since it is certain to be voided by the higher courts, the secularist warriors of the Congress suffer from such poverty of ideas that they can think of nothing else to woo the Muslim voters.
If there was a genuine re-think of the way the Congress practiced its secularism it would not have dangled the carrot of reservations before the Muslims in Maharashtra. The short point, therefore, is that Advani was wrong in believing that the Congress was about to revisit its version of secularism. It was not.
Quite clearly, the sharp jump in the BJP vote in Kerala in the recent parliamentary poll was the sole reason why Saint Antony felt obliged to counsel a moderation in the pro-Muslim, pro-Christian stance of the party in the state. And only in his state of Kerala
Contrary to Advani’s flattering view of Antony’s remarks, the Congress party clearly has no intention to move away from its self-serving tokenism towards the minority communities. Advani is right in interpreting secularism as the state treating all citizens as equal regardless of their religious faith. But in the Congress lexicon secularism is a stratagem, a simple tool, meant to hoodwink minorities into voting for it by raising the bogey of communalism of its main rivals.
Antony is too deeply seeped in the Congress culture to discard that instrumentality of secularism for ensnaring Muslims. His only concern is to prevent the Hindu voters in Kerala from veering towards the BJP as a result of the pronouncedly pro-minority tilt of his party.
Therefore, it is no use commending Antony for seeking a re-definition of the Congress variety of secularism. Since the mere evoking of the fear of the BJP has thus far kept the minorities in the Congress camp, the party leadership is loath to review its version of secularism.
Restoring to secularism its true meaning would oblige the party to work hard for the socio-economic welfare of the minorities, which it reckons is unnecessary when it can net the minority vote by merely playing on their fears and anxieties.