The Indian National Congress, which is the country’s oldest party, is passing through the most challenging phase of her life. The grand old party has enjoyed the glory of occupying office at the centre for more than 50 years, without any interruption for many decades. Now, it is prevalent in only five relatively small states, including one union territory. It has only 46 MPs in Lok Sabha. In fact, it had won only 44 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha election, and managed to improve the tally by winning two by-polls. In North India’s two largest provinces, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the INC has been marginalised since nearly three decades. The biggest reason for its decline is that its traditional supporters have deserted it because of caste-based and communal divisions.
There was a time when Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim, Brahmin and some other backward communities formed the INC’s primary support bases. With the support from these communities, it could occupy office at the centre and in various states. Now, many of these bases have shifted towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. Many Dalit, Adivasi, Brahmins, and OBCs are now with BJP in states where there is a direct contest between Congress and BJP. Muslims are there with it half-heartedly because there is no force to take on BJP in those states.
The INC’s recently adopted politics of soft Hindutva might alienate Muslims and intellectuals from the party even in those state where the party currently commands their support. Despite Congress getting the support of Muslims, it has used them as mere a vote bank and has neglected the problems relevant to them. Dalits and tribals have got reservations in the proportion of their population in the Parliament and the Legislatures, but it is not so with the Muslims. Since independence, Muslims have never got representation in the proportion of their population in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. The same is also true for Rajya Sabha, Legislative Councils, urban bodies, district councils and panchayats.
Not only politically, but also in the economically, socially, and academically, the situation of Muslims is not good. There are some historical reasons for the prevalent conditions as well. At the time of partition of India in 1947, most prosperous middle-classes and educated Muslims left for Pakistan. Those who chose to stay in India were mostly associated with traditional occupations like farming, handicraft, and workmanship. Selfish and conservative leadership only misguided them.
Despite all kinds of deprivation, it is alleged that Muslims have been appeased by the government. The campaign of Muslim appeasement has been a sustained one for last many decades. Despite being sympathetic to Muslim cause, the Congress seems to be avoiding them. The new leadership of Congress: Rahul Gandhi, seems apathetic.
The INC wants to fight the BJP’s challenge by using the strategy of soft Hindutva. Rahul is surrounded by a coterie, which does not represent the ethos of Congress and they come from elite background. This class of Congressmen is trying to convince Rahul that the INC performed well due to the temple tour conducted during the election campaign. But, reality is different. Congress did better because of Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakur, and also because Rahul raised relevant issues; the agenda was powerful and the dissent for the BJP strengthened. New emerging social equations also helped the INC.
It is an open secret that Rahul is bent upon accepting soft Hindutva as the party’s main strategy to win elections. If Congress continues to play Hindu cards, it stands to lose a large chunk of its Muslim support base.
-Contributed by Kriti
Picture Credits: hindustantimes.com