Caught in its own excesses

That is the predicament of the Congress, as doubts arise within about its policy and practice of secularism.

The Congress came to be seen not as a liberalising force when it came to Muslims, but as a party that kowtowed  to orthodoxy. The Congress came to be seen not as a liberalising force when it came to Muslims, but as a party that kowtowed to orthodoxy.
Written by Balbir Punj | Published on:July 4, 2014 11:39 pm

So disjointed is the Congress party because of its electoral rout that it is now beginning to think with a divided brain and speak in a forked tongue. What other explanation could there be when a senior leader of the party, A.K. Antony, expresses serious doubts about the efficacy of the Muslim appeasement policy and the next moment, its chief minister in Maharashtra announces the same quota sop for Muslims (and Marathas)?

Antony said: “[The] Congress policy is equal justice to everyone. But people doubt whether that policy is being implemented or not. This doubt is created by the party’s proximity towards minorities and such a situation would open the door for the entry of communal forces into Kerala.”

The Antony thesis, which will certainly find reflection in his probe body’s report, is that the Congress leaning too much towards Muslims resulted in a backlash from Hindus and secular Muslims as well. As for why the Muslims, to whom the party genuflected, failed to show their hand even in constituencies with 45 to 15 per cent of minority vote, the Congress is comforting itself by believing that Muslims had divided loyalties among the rival parties that were competing for their vote with even larger sops.

That explains why the Congress is determined to stick to its minority appeasement policies, like giving them reservation en masse. The Maharashtra decision and Antony’s soliloquy are perfectly explainable in terms both of the Congress’s past and its own apparent self-doubt when faced with its policies giving results contrary to what it expects.

The UPA’s two governments were so committed to vote-bank politics that its prime minister went so far as to suggest Muslims had first claim on development funds. But all this did not cut much ice. The election results in Muslim pockets in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Andhra Pradesh were particularly galling for the party.

It was not just the division of Muslim votes. It was more that the Congress lacks credibility for the community and the exasperation with quota politics, which would not get the Muslim youth anywhere in the emerging competitive world. After all, in Seemandhra, there were no rivals for the Congress on its Muslim quota platform after the TDP aligned with the BJP. In Assam, the Congress had hoped that its stand on Bangladeshi immigrants would keep the substantial Muslim vote with it. That did not happen.

A careful post-election survey and analysis of the Muslim vote might be revealing. The quota is no longer a sufficient, or even good, hook. This is true not just in the case of minorities but also among significant sections of the Hindu electorate. For instance, the Jats of western …continued »

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