A day after senior leader A K Antony cautioned the Congress that its proximity to minority communities had led people to doubt its secularism, the party said it had taken his views seriously, and would debate them internally.
“A K Antony is one of the senior-most leaders of the party. What he has said or observed will be certainly discussed and considered by the party,” AICC general secretary and Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told The Sunday Express.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Congress president V M Sudheeran said, “I think it should be seen against the backdrop of Kerala, where there are many incidents creating doubts about the party’s secular stand. Congress has to include everyone. Both the party and the government in Kerala should take his observations seriously and positively.”
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Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said, “If Congress deviates from its secular stand, it will lose public support. Antony has a clear perception of how Congress has watered down its secular stand. When a leader like Antony expresses such an opinion, no one can ignore it.”
Several top Congress leaders have been arguing in private that the Congress’s aggressive pro-minority stance has proved counter-productive, and suggested the need to strike a balance. Shakeel Ahmed had himself aired similar views in the Congress Working Committee which met immediately after the Lok Sabha election debacle.
Chennithala said “many incidents” had created doubts in people’s minds. “Antony’s words are a warning. Both the party and the (Kerala) government have to take the necessary corrective steps,” he said.
However, Rashid Alvi, a prominent Muslim leader of the party, sounded unconvinced by Antony’s argument.
“I don’t know what exactly he has said. But I can say that the Muslim community has never been appeased. Rather, they are the most backward class in the country, and they need to be looked after properly,” Alvi said.
In Kerala too, a section of Congress leaders demanded that Antony explain himself. A senior leader who declined to be identified, said, “Let him first explain whether his comments were pertaining to national scenario or to Kerala. We don’t find a situation in Kerala where people are in doubt about the Congress’s secular stand. The Lok Sabha election results showed that both minority and majority communities are with the party.”
K P A Majeed, state general secretary of Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League, said Antony’s self-criticism reflected the confusion in the Congress. “It is up to that party to make a detailed analysis and take corrective steps,” Majeed said.