“The ONLY real defense is active defense” – Mao Zedong
The grand old party of India today faces an existential treat. With a glorious history spanning over 130 years, the Indian National Congress has come through innumerable crises, however, now recovery seems very distant. Undoubtedly, it is because of its own wrong doings that today it finds itself in abyss. But, it is not just the sliding electoral performance that is worrying for all parties go through this phase, but it is the party’s lackadaisical attitude and ultra-defensive outlook that has led to its downfall. As Nitish Kumar sometime ago rightly pointed out, the Congress has not been able to set an alternative agenda, rather it has only been reacting to BJP’s moves. It has chosen to defend when it should have attacked and vice-versa. A classic example of this was recently at display when the party decided to distance itself from P Chidambaram’s controversial remarks on Kashmir. Through analyzing this episode, this article seeks to explain why the Congress party has continuously failed to recover.
Greater Autonomy is Constitutional
Let us understand what Chidambaram had said. While interacting with businessmen and intelligentsia in Rajkot, Chidambaram said, “The demand in Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370. And that means that they want greater autonomy. My interactions in Jammu and Kashmir led me to the conclusion that when they ask for Azaadi (Independence), most people — I am not saying all — (an) overwhelming majority want autonomy. Therefore, I think we should seriously examine the question and consider on what areas we can give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.” From this, one thing becomes clear that Chidambaram was not arguing for ‘Independence for Kashmir’, what he was arguing for was simply initiating a debate over the possibility of giving a greater degree of autonomy to the people of the J&K. So therefore, the question that should have been asked is this – Is granting greater autonomy to states antithetical to India or Indian Constitution, the answer to which is, clearly NOT. The 70 year old history of independent India is replete with examples of rising regional aspirations finding solution in and through the grant of greater autonomy to those regions. The essence of democracy is in recognizing that all power and legitimacy emanates from people. ‘People’ are the centre of all political power and that is the reason why democracy is so highly rated and cherished. In fact, Indian Constitution is such a great document that it presumes that with changing time peoples’ aspirations will rise, and thus it (Constitution) provides enough room to adjust and represent that diversity of ideas. For instance, the Sixth Schedule gives tribal communities in the four North-eastern states considerable autonomy as the states of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram are autonomous regions under the Sixth Schedule. Schedule V and VI prove that the Constitution itself contains the framework or structure to provide autonomy to states. And given that Kashmir’s accession to Indian Union occurred in peculiar circumstances where it was promised special autonomy under Article 370, not only mandates but also places a moral obligation on the central government to fulfil that promise. Also, how insurgency has been tackled in various North eastern states, through the process of dialogue and mainstreaming of dissenting voices highlight that this is the only way that Kashmir issue could be resolved. That was for the autonomy question. Now coming to the Congress. As explained above, what PC said was definitely not untenable and must have been backed by his party. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as the Congress was swift in denouncing Chidambaram and distancing itself from his view. They again decided to play by the rules set by the BJP, which naturally reduced this complex issue to the binary of national — anti-national. Congress’s National Spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala explained his party’s view saying,”Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh is an integral part of India and will always remain so unquestionably”. Well, poor Congress again failed to recognize that the question was not of being integral part of India. Even if it were, doesn’t ‘Integral part’ of India has the Constitutional right to assert for greater autonomy. Isn’t this a part of cooperative federalism – a principle that BJP goes around flaunting.
To sum up, it is amply clear that the Congress cannot revive unless it provides an alternative view. As the oldest and still the only party with a truly pan Indian network and organization it should know where it needs to be defensive and where to be at the offensive. Unless it breaks out of the ‘Chakravyuh’ that BJP has wield around, it cannot even imagine to regain the lost ground.
– Contributed by Kunwar Suryansh
Picture Credits: thehindubusinessline.com