Millennium Post

Congress is losing the battle of perceptions

The Indian National Congress celebrated its 130th foundation day on December 28, 2014.  The party, founded by AO Hume and nurtured throughout by a battery of great leaders, is at a cross roads today, venturing out to reinvent its religious affiliations. 

Repeated humiliations in one electoral battle after another have left the party despondent. Even though the INC is only party with a pan India presence today, it is struggling to survive in certain parts of the country. The number one party has been relegated to a fourth level outfit. Recent election reverses have compelled the party to re-invent its religious affiliations, despite its much publicised secular tenets. The debilitating party has, in fact, dared to ascertain its perception to the general public.

It is not the first time that the party is passing through an era of reverses. It happened in 1977 and later on a few other occasions. The party has been boasting of its capabilities to re-emerge. Erstwhile Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had the guts and ammunition to fight back. She was able to swim against the stream and continued to run the show, despite splits and desertions in the party ranks.

Today, the party lacks such a result-oriented leadership. Is the party today, under the leadership of its President and the Vice-President, keen to digest the truth about its perception of being called pro- minority or anti- Hindu?

Political parties, besides the Congress, are also being termed as pro-minority outfits. Despite such allegations, the parties in question have never been punished by Hindu voters. The Samajwadi Party and Trinmool Congress have been openly safeguarding the interests of minorities in their respective states and simultaneously maintaining their affinity with the Hindu populace. The Congress must learn the art of balancing from such political outfits.

The Congress had to face large scale indiscipline and oral fireworks by its leaders after suffering reverses in one election after another. Different voices have their concerns, causing an unpleasant situation for the high command.  It constituted committees to find out the reasons behind the poll reverses, aiming to mend its ways and policies on the basis of certain recommendations. The latest committee, led by senior leader AK Antony, perhaps threw hints about the reasons behind their poor electoral performaces.  He opined that the party, due to its anti-Hindu perception, was rejected by the majority Hindu population. His conclusion unfortunately was not taken seriously in a wider sense.  What prompted Rahul Gandhi to receive feedback from the masses on this very issue? 

The feedback, whatever it may have been, would expose the tall claim of being the only secular political outfit in the country.  As far as the present political scenario is concerned, most parties had been trying to harvest political advantages on all sensitive religious issues by justifying their stand, as per their conveniences. The exception to this rule could be the left-leaning parties.

The general perception has been that the Congress, over the years, favoured a particular religion, keeping in view of political compulsions. The party could not even rebut its alleged acts of appeasement. Mere silence on such allegations affected the party. Tough political challenges might have forced the party to deviate from its path of secularism. In the backdrop of allegations surrounding appeasement of minorities, the party hardly tried to highlight its balancing initiatives. It is a hard fact that renovation work of the historical and religiously significant Somnath Temple in Gujarat was initiated by none less than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  Further the Ram temple at Ayodhaya was unlocked during the tenure of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.  

It would have served the Congress well to disseminate initiatives in facilitating pilgrims of all religions including Hindus and Sikhs, rather than highlighting the facilities for Muslims only.  As far as reservation in employment in certain states is concerned, the party could have avoided referring to reservations based on religions, not permitted in the constitution.  Year after year, Congress governments have continued to host Iftar parties.  An eminent Congress leader, the late Arjun Singh, I remember,  organised Ram Navami celebration at his official residence at New Delhi to give an impression that his party and government have given due respect to the festivities of all religions. The Delhi PCC once declared the celebration of a Hindu festival at its office, which eventually turned out to be just an announcement and nothing else.      

Whether the party would effectively be able to ascertain views of the masses on this issue, it would be better if its top leadership holistically introspects and conducts a brainstorming discussion on the issue. The leadership is perhaps shying away from its own responsibility.  The right answer might help the party in igniting its cadres and revive the organisation at the earliest.
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