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  Opinion   Edit  05 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Congress can't be ambivalent on core issues like secularism

AA Edit | Congress can't be ambivalent on core issues like secularism

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 5, 2024, 12:13 am IST
Updated : Apr 5, 2024, 12:13 am IST

Rahul Gandhi's subdued rally in Wayanad underscores the Congress' wavering stance on coalition dynamics and secular principles.

Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Priyanka Gandhi and K.C. Venugopal during a road show before filing his nomination papers for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, in Wayanad district, Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (PTI Photo)
 Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Priyanka Gandhi and K.C. Venugopal during a road show before filing his nomination papers for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, in Wayanad district, Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (PTI Photo)

The unusually lack-lustre rally sans party flags that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led on his way to the Wayanad collectorate in Kerala where he submitted his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha election is a reflection of the bland politics his party has been practising for the last decades.

The absence of both flags of the Congress Party, which leads the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, and those of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the most important ally of the Congress in Kerala for over five decades, was no accident. The party did not want the BJP to “exploit” the presence of IUML flags, which incidentally has a decisive vote base in the constituency, hence the decision to banish flags of all the UDF constituents. Including of the Congress, of which Mr Gandhi was once president.  

On the face of it, the Congress cannot be blamed. At the peak of the election campaign in 2019, then BJP president Amit Shah had characteristically commented that it was difficult to discern whether an election rally of Mr Gandhi was being taken out in India or Pakistan; his reference being to the green IUML flags which outnumbered the tricolour of the Congress in Wayanad. That statement, coupled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s insinuation that the Opposition leaders had fled to places where the majority is in minority, demonstrated that the BJP could go to any length when it comes to communalising normal democratic and political activities.

Fighting a cagey political opponent, the Congress has only two options: Either face it with candour and stand by its ally which entails announcing that the IUML is not a communal political party and that it instead advances the cause of secularism or give in to political blackmail and compromise its own character. The Congress chose the latter.

That Mr Gandhi, who in 2019 was leading a party that was pitted against the saffron combine, picked a constituency which is one of the few in the country where the BJP polls votes in single digit was itself a paradox. Five years later, things have changed for the worse as Mr Gandhi now virtually leads a grand combine which includes the CPI, his main challenger in the constituency. Such is the short-sightedness of the Congress that it has fielded its best face against the national leader of its own ally, and not against a political opponent.   

The Congress has not realised that ad-hocism and ambivalence mean shooting oneself in one’s own foot and that political parties only stand to gain by making their policy statement in no uncertain terms. Since the time the party chose to dump its professed policy of secularism and prostrate itself before Muslim fundamentalists in the Shah Bano case and then to equivocate on the Babri Masjid issue resulting in the mosque’s demolition, it has only lost supporters. It is on such political quicksand now that, on one hand, it wants its ally not to show up with flags while, on the other, it is confused about the offer of support by the SDPI, the political arm of the banned Islamist organisation, the Popular Front of India. It is time the grand old party rediscovered the values that have sustained it all these years. Go back to the basics, the wise say.

Tags: wayanad lok sabha constituency, congress leader rahul gandhi, indian secularism, aa edit