Antony Proposes, Congress Disposes?
Intro: First time in the history, a senior leader in the Congress talked about departing from the British legacy of ‘Divide and Rule’ based on ‘Psuedo-Secularism’. Unfortunately the grand old party is still not in a correction mode. ?
After Congress leader AK Antony’s recent statement that ‘Congress’ apparent proximity to minority communities led people to doubt its ‘secularism’ majority people refreshed the notion that Congress is inclined to certain communities. The statement sparked a countrywide debate on Congress secularism. However, in a face saving move Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tried to reject Antony’s statement saying ‘Congress never played the politics of appeasement’.
Antony is a senior party leader and what he says seems to be his well thought opinion. About a decade back also as Chief Minister of Kerala in 2003 he had expressed the same view. He then said, ‘Muslims were powerfully organised and secured privileges by collective bargaining. This could not be allowed.” That time too some Congress leaders demanded Antony should withdraw his statement. Senior party leader K Karunakaran then told Smt Sonia Gandhi that the Congress leadership should make an independent assessment of the impact that Antony’s statement would have on party’s electoral prospects.
It is not for the first time that Congress’ appeasement politics sparked a debate. Fact is that the party has over a hundred year history of indulging in appeasement. In 1919, when it supported Khilafat Movement, its decision was widely criticised because the Khilafat Movement had nothing to do with India’s freedom struggle. The movement was an attempt by Indian Muslims to show solidarity with the Turkish Empire ruled by Khalifa, which was attacked by the British. The Muslims consider Khalifa as the custodian of Islam. They simply could not digest his dethronement. At that time the Congress leaders considered that if they support Khilafat Movement the Muslims would come closer to it. But within a short span of 2-3 years, the Khilafat leaders parted way with the Congress. Not only this, the movement also gave a momentum to the ideology of separate Pakistan. After sometime the Congress accepted separate electorate for Muslims, which only strengthen the separatist mentality in the community.
After the elections of 1945-46 held under separate electoral system, the Congress and Muslim League signed an agreement on October 4, 1946 that “the Congress did not challenge this and accept that Muslim League represents the large majority of Indian Muslims. In this situation …the Muslim League has an undisputed right to represent Indian Muslims…” This agreement was signed by Gandhiji, Nawab of Bhopal and Shvaib Qureshi. (Sardar Patel-Chuna Hua Patravyahar-1, ed. V Shankar, pg 136.) Pt. Jawhar Lal Nehru wrote a letter to MA Jinnah on October 6, 1946. In that letter he clearly mentioned that “as per election results we are ready to accept that Muslim League is an undisputed authorised representative organisation of a large majority of Indian Muslims …’ (Sardar Patel- Chuna Hua Patravyahar-1, ed.-V Shankar, pg 138). This agreement further strengthened Jinnah’s hands and finely he succeeded to get what he wanted.
During Independence struggle the Congress tried hard to appease the Muslims, but failed to gain anything. Rather the nation had to pay a heavy price for it. Even after Independence, Congress continued the same appeasement policy and surrendered itself at the feet of Muslims at the cost of national interests.
To appease minority vote-bank it dumped Vande Mataram and Common Civil Code, accepted Article-370, did not accept Supreme Court’s decision in Shahbano case, entered in an alliance with the Muslim League, which is responsible for Partition of the country, accepted reservation for Muslims in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling against it. The list is endless. When the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh said that ‘Muslims have a first right over the country’s resources’ everyone in the country was shocked as the statement was against the basic principles of secularism i.e. justice to all, appeasement of none and discrimination against none.
Fact is that the Congress always followed the British policy of ‘divide and rule’ for petty political gains and used minorities as a vote-bank to stay in power. But the minorities followed their own politics as described by AK Antony in 2003 that ‘Muslims were powerfully organised, and had secured privileges by collective bargaining’.
If the Congress leadership listened to him and thought over it at that time the Congress would not have faced such a humiliating defeat, as it has witnessed today. How could it be more shameful to the country’s largest party than that it could not qualify even a recognised Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Dr Ravindra Agrawal? (The writer is a senior journalist)