Last year during the Gujarat elections, the New Congress was unveiled by its president. It was to be a Hindutva party but with a liberal secular Hindutva. This was no doubt a voter-friendly move. The Congress was worried about being called Muslim-friendly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opened up a new ideological ground. So while disliking Modi personally, the Congress acknowledged that he had triumphed ideologically. The next contest would be on Modi’s chosen ground.
So far so good. But why stop at just visiting temples? If you want to be a proper Hindutva advocate, you have to rewrite history. After all, Maharana Pratap didn’t lose at Haldighati but won. So now we can rewrite more recent history. The 1984 riots were not the doing of the Congress. Of course, the Congress was in power, with the prime minister and the home minister being Congressmen. Three thousand Sikhs died. No policeman was hurt because none left his station. It was not a communal riot. It was a pogrom. But not the fault of the Congress. Just as the British acquired India ‘in a fit of absent-mindedness’, the pogrom happened while the new government was too busy to notice.
Asking Dr Manmohan Singh to apologise for the 1984 pogrom was a shocking act. He was not in 1984 a member of the Congress party. Nor was he in any way involved. To select a member of the victim community to apologise for cruelty visited upon it by local Congress politicians was unconscionable. He is a gentleman and rose to the occasion. Denying the Congress’s responsibility for 1984 now raises the question: if the Congress was not responsible, why did Dr Singh have to do what he was compelled to do?
This sort of childish manipulation of history shows the immaturity of the Congress leadership. People rejected the Congress in 2014 because it refused to acknowledge its failures. When will the Congress examine its failure of 2014? It suffered one of the largest loss of seats any party has experienced at an election. Even four years later, there has been no public discussion within the party as to why it failed except that it was not the fault of the Family. If so, why did the voters reject the party? Was it due to its policies, defects in its organisation, divisions within its top echelon? Not saying anything and not publishing the A K Antony report is not good enough. Modern-day voters will not stand for such arrogant paternalism.
So far the party has produced no ideas on policy nor articulated its present thinking. Being against Modi is not a Manifesto. If India has a low score on human development, if Muslims are a severely economically and socially deprived community, if violence against women and Dalits still persists, it is no good blaming a four-year-old BJP government. The party that ruled four-fifths of the time since India’s Independence must take its share of responsibility.
It is because the vision the Congress offered was old and tired that the new voters, born since the last time the Congress was in a majority, rejected it. Jawaharlal Nehru was no doubt a great man but he died 54 years ago. Has the Congress thought any new thoughts, refashioned any ideas which may inspire the young people of today?