Rahul Gandhi raises communal bogey in attempt to hit the BJP where it hurts most
After days of vacillating on it, Rahul Gandhi raises the communal bogey. In a public meeting at Churu, Rajasthan, Rahul came hard on BJP and in a head-on collision course it blamed BJP for inciting communal riots in the country which, he said, ultimately leads to terrorism. Thus, by putting the blame for communal riots and terrorism squarely on the main opposition party in the nation, he has tried to play the communal card with rich political dividend in sight.
To paint the BJP in communal colours has been the long-standing strategy of the congress party and it has worked many times in the past. But, Rahul Gandhi, in the run up to the 2014 elections, had been desisting from invoking it so far. Maybe because he understood that by talking of development and issues related to poor and youth he will be able to pull his party through in the coming elections. But, with pre-poll surveys across the spectrum repeatedly projecting the party to get the drubbing in the 2014 elections, desperation has started getting the better of him. Therefore, under the grip of panic, he chose to play the trump card of communalism hoping to polarize the nation along communal fault lines and sweep the windfall of minority votes.
But, the strategy is perilous – it carries the risk of communalizing the political discourse of our times. As it goes to ruffle the feathers of the BJP, the latter would certainly have a bone to pick with the Congress on this sensitive accusation. Though, the BJP of course is a party which has blotted its copybook by the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and by many other actions that casts it in communal mould, it certainly would like to question the credentials of the congress in the communal-secular debate.
So far the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi treaded a cautious path by skirting the issue of communalism and he talked about positive issues like strengthening the bureaucratic-administrative functioning to lead development, economic growth and changes; he talked of creating structures for sustaining equitable growth that promised the fruit of development to the urban and rural societies alike. He talked about the issues of the middle class and the youth and tried to reach out to the Minorities promising them development and growth which had eluded them so far. He took the issues of corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism that has bled India in the past decades and promised a clean and efficient administration on the lines of his home state Gujarat where he’s been ruling since 2001. It connected him instantly with the middle class, the youth, the poors and to some extent, even with minorities. He talked tough and assured that he meant business.
The resurgent, restless India lauded him and the crowds cheered him with frenzied applause wherever he went. Over the time, his personality took the status of cult among his followers. This gave sleepless nights to Congress strategists who have always sought upmanship in the personality-centric politics of India.
In this tug of war, Rahul Gandhi found his grip slipping and this made him desperate. He has overexploited his welfare-oriented policies like Food Security Bill and MANREGA but finds the prospects of these policies returning votes very dismal. He knows he has nothing to talk on the development plank as each policy of his government is blotted by a scarier scam. Thus, the congress think-tank went overdrive to cut the BJP to size by playing the communal card. By slinging the mud of communalism on BJP they hope some of it would stick with them. Thus, they have chosen to strike the BJP where it hurts most.
But, by playing the communal card Rahul Gandhi runs the risk of exposing his own party’s records to closer scrutiny. The congress has many questions to answer on the front of secularism. One would be tempted to ask about Congress party’s support to organizations like Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI and about its track records in various communal riots like that of Bhagalpur, anti-sikh riots of 1984 and the recent Assam riots. One would like to highlight the communal agenda of the party by upturning the SC judgement on Shah Bano in 1987, by standing behind the terrorist encounter of Batla House, by its plan to give the Muslims reservations in government jobs, by its recent administrative instructions to state governments to not arrest the members of minority community in matters of terrorist investigations and by its proposed legislations like the Communal violence bill where it shamelessly attempts to put criminality on the majority community in a riot situation and subjecting the members of the majority community to harsher criminal procedures for the same crime. The history of the Congress party in the post-independence India is a chronology of facts how the party has fomented, nourished and sustained communalism by exploiting the communal fault-line to its own political advantages. Rahul Gandhi would find himself on a sticky wicket if he is invited to talk on communalism in India and the role of political parties in it. Maybe, partially because of his banal oratorical skills, he would never be ready for such a public trial. Thus, he sees virtue in making ambushes from the sidelines.
Thus, short of ideas on development and change and with an aim to deflect attention from issues of corruption, price rise, unemployment and misgovernance, Rahul Gandhi pushes communal agenda to the fore. But, in the process, the positive discourse of the 2014 elections runs the risk of being hijacked by the chancy talks of hate.