Those who expect political class to be a ‘revolutionary’ and ‘radically’ ‘secular‘ live in great illusion and should form their ‘own’ outfits which their own families will not support. Intellectualism and politics, frankly do not go together. Politics is sentiments, emotions and all the Saas-Bahu masala that we love to watch on TV screens. The reason why I am writing this is the ‘disappointment’ of many ‘secular’ friends with Congress party for ‘welcoming’ the Ram Mandir.
Congress’s track record for the Mandir movement is well known and need a fair analysis. Except for the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, the top leadership of the Congress even in those days believed that we should respect the ‘sentiments’ of Hindus.
Who can ignore the fact that Dr Rajendra Prasad went to inaugurate Somnath temple reconstruction despite prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s disapproval? His own Minister K M Munshi was dead against Nehru’s attitude.
After his death, Shastri did not have that much of conviction to handle the Sangh Parivar. Maybe, his term was too short to be evaluated that way but we have not found things where he was ideologically opposed to Hindutva.
Mrs Indira Gandhi, in her initial years as prime minister, was tilted towards the left and it got reflected in her ending of privy purses and opting for land reforms and pro-farmer agenda. But emergency atrocities on Muslims particularly the whole politics of Sanjay Gandhi found favour from RSS and many of them actually sought reconciliation with her. There were many ‘Gurus’ including Acharya Vinoba Bhave, ready to play the role of a mediator.
After her powerful return in 1980, Mrs Gandhi policies were more visibly right wing as she talked about the issue of Hindus in Jammu and then allowed the Punjab situation to go out of hand. A Bhindarwallah was ‘created’ to counter the Akalis but became a burden for her own party. To keep the Hindus happy, she ordered army operation to ‘flush out’ terrorists from the holy shrine of Harmandir Saheb. Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated at her official residence in Delhi on October 31st, 1984. For the next few days, Delhi saw the dark side of the ruling party which engaged in the anti-Sikh violence. Delhi police were just following the order of the Sarkar which had decided to teach Sikhs a lesson. The entire country was made to polarise and any Sikh anywhere became the object of hatred and joke.
Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother. He spoke of Ganga and Bharat Mata. He was never apologetic on what happened in Delhi and butchery and the complete failure of Congress Party to take a bold stand. In fact, to gain from the polarised atmosphere, he went in for National polls even when the situation was not good in the country. In the month of December, we saw the massive disaster in Bhopal killing thousands of people yet Congress decided to go for polls and got an unprecedented mandate. Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister of an aspiring India but just like the current regime which despise Muslims, Rajiv Gandhi government rarely bothered about the feeling of Sikhs. In fact, his famous speech at the Boat Club, ‘ jab bada ped girta hai to dharati hilti hai’ i.e. when a big tree falls, the earth shakes, was a shameless justification of the violence against Sikhs. All those who were accused of inciting violence against Sikhs got not just the ticket in Lok Sabha but also got rewarded when the Ministry was formed. Rajiv’s massive victory was not the victory of democracy but pure hatred politics. Congress learn nothing but this politics became the mantra of Hindutva agenda in the subsequent years, the only difference was that instead of Sikhs, the target of vilification were Muslims.
Within two years, the issues started cropping up but with the massive mandate, Rajiv rarely bothered. His minister Arun Nehru got the Ayodhya temple unlocked. Nobody was bothered about the issue that much and it should have been decided in the beginning itself but then Congress believed in delaying things and measuring the political benefits out of it. Suddenly, the issue of Muslim woman Shahbano became political when Supreme Court asked Shahbano’s husband to pay for the maintenance amount which was objected by the Muslim clergy as well as All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The Court order was overturned through a new act in Parliament to satisfy the hurt sentiments of the Muslims. His 1989 campaign, Rajiv started from Ayodhya and asked for Ram Rajya. Frankly speaking, Kamal Nath and Digvijay are not wrong as Rajiv Gandhi spoke of Ram Rajya but people did not believe in him and his party lost. V P Singh became prime minister but it was a difficult government on the support of left and right both.
V P Singh declared acceptance of Mandal Commission report and Rajiv Gandhi spoke against it in the Parliament. BJP raised the Ram Temple issue and the government fell. Congress played old trick as it did with Charan Singh and supported Chandra Shekhar as the new leader. That government too fell and it was well known to everyone that Congress will play mischief and it did so. Congress could have saved V P Singh government to allow it to function and take the necessary action which it was doing and it would have sent a positive message but then it was a fact that till that time Congress always thought itself the ‘only’ party that know ‘how to govern’. The politics of a Charan Singh and later with Chandra Shekhar was to send a ‘message’ to the people of India that ‘opposition’ is incapable of ruling India and hence power comes naturally to them.
In 1992, Narsimha Rao was the prime minister of India and he presided over a regime which allowed the destruction of Babari Masjid. Many ‘seculars” hat time felt that we were unnecessarily targeting Rao as he was ‘betrayed’ by the Sangh Parivar but the fact is that Narsimha Rao, a wily politician of Brahmanical mould, trusted Atal Bihari Vajpayee more than his own party leaders or any other party. The Economic model that Narsimha Rao unleashed on India was actually a clever way to undo everything which acceptance of the Mandal Commission Report has done. So, Congress Party’s complete focus was towards the Savannas and for that it was ready to go to any length. During Narasimha Rao’s period, two ministers remained at the loggerhead with the government. One was Mr Arjun Singh and the other was Rajesh Pilot. Both were upset and unhappy with the soft paddling towards Hindutva by the leadership. Narasimha Rao survived because India’s savarna elite wanted him to and slowly he ‘handed’ over his party to the BJP. The party was already finished in Uttar Pradesh and thanks to the party’s Brahmanical leadership which was not ready to learn its lessons.
Congress never wanted alliances. It felt that regional parties were meant to destroy and that is the reality that even today, most of the regional leaders are ready to sit with BJP rather than coming to the Congress party because Congress has not really had a warm relationship. The party broke smaller parties. Its track record in instigating defections in the parties is well known. BJP is not doing anything new but everything which has already been done by the Congress party.
The two UPAs actually did nothing to fight against the communal virus. In fact, they wanted to appease all kinds of fundamentalists. The party was nowhere and those in power were rarely bothered about the party.
The only thing that party could do was allow Mr Arjun Singh to get the OBC quota implemented in higher education. He was also sidelined. The UPA II was worst as the Ministers now felt themselves more powerful and were contemptuous towards people. Corruption was rampant or an impression was created but the Congress Party’s policies were superfluous. It wanted everything. It wanted to please the corporate and appease the poor through direct cash transfer or MNREGA work. It never ever thought of radical land reforms or policies that empower the Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis. It felt that through its MNREGA, FRA, RTI work, it would gain power and hence it never reached the people. There were no sentiments involved, no issues of people.
It has nothing to fight against the communal virus. It could do nothing to stop violence in Mujjaffarnagar, nor could it do anything to secularise our institutions whether police or administration. The Anna movement and the Nirbhaya case actually finished whatever was there as party was unable to defend and the government was suffering from paralysis. Many mantris had already realised that the party was going to lose and hence they were least bothered. Unlike BJP, which has a link with their cadres, Congress leadership rarely interacted with the cadres. Rahul Gandhi’s entry in the initial stage at the helm of affairs in the party did not enthuse anyone. Initially, they felt that he was nothing but when he asserted and wanted radical changes in the party particularly related to the representation of youth, women, Dalits, minorities, OBCs, the Brahmanical leadership felt threatened.
I can say it with my understanding that the image ‘Pappu’ for Rahul Gandhi was created not merely by the Sanghis but many of the over-ambitious Congress netas upset with the social justice politics of Rahul Gandhi.
Moreover, Rahul fought but he still needs to learn a lot as the dilemma for him was whether he should admit the follies of his ‘own’ governments or not. Till this date, Congress leaders are fighting with each other on this as those who were ministers feel that UPA-II was a great experiment that worked well but the perception about UPA II was a thoroughly corrupted and ineffective government which rarely communicated with people.
Contrary to this, BJP and Narendra Modi’s social media presence was massive. Congress party was not ready to defend the government as there was a big gap between the party and the government. The mantris did not bother about the karykartas and hence the result was that by 2014, Narendra Modi had become larger than life. He sold the Gujarat model but his original cadre was from the Sangh Parivar.
Today, Narendra Modi has fulfilled the ‘dreams’ of his cadre and the process was facilitated by all the institutions we ‘glorify’ so much. Our media has decided to conceal the people’s issues and focus on propaganda material. I don’t think it would have been feasible for any political party to stop this, nor even for the courts. The key lesson is that when you keep a small land dispute pending for decades, it was bound to happen like this.
Secondly, a negotiated settlement in the early stages would have saved us from the political benefits of it. Whether a temple should be there or not there might have been a purely legal viewpoint but its political ramifications have actually brought us to this stage where future is uncertain and bleak. Of course, it is not merely a Congress party but all of us who are responsible for this crisis.
The leadership of a nation does not come from isolation pockets but emerge from the people itself. Today, a feeling of victimhood has been created among those who enjoyed fruits of social and political power. As Narendra Modi inaugurates the Mandir building project, political parties expressed happiness for it. Mr Kamal Nath recited Hanuman Chalisa and Digvijay Singh quoted the Swami Swroopanand Saraswathi that the timing was not great. Priyanka Gandhi quoted greatness of Lord Rama and Rahul also tried to be a party to it so that 50 years down the line, he is not vilified like his illustrious great- grandfather.
There is a lot for the political parties to learn but more for the Congress Party. If it is really keen and want social justice to the be issue, it must raise the issue of the marginalised by continuously raising those issues and bring the leadership from these sections of society. Remember, only Ambedkarite and Mandal forces i.e. forces of social justice ca fight against the Brahmanical agenda but will the Congress be ready to Mandalise its polity or continue to play the ‘liberal’ card denying the Bahujan Samaj a role in its political structure.
Congress has ‘contributed’ enough to ‘build’ the Ram Temple though people are not going to accept it and the only option for it to survive and be relevant in the polity is to become a political platform for all those progressive social justice forces who want a cohesive and secular India as enshrined in the constitution of India.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
July 6th, 2020