Naveen (Nijam) Gara
The Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently declared that Congress will be decimated after the next elections in 2024. Such a statement is no surprise coming from the belligerent BJP and it is indicative of their poll-ready state of mind. Whether that would happen or not will only be evident with time. But it begs a question: Is Congress really an alternative to BJP?
The country is at an ideological crossroad with BJP firmly carrying on it’s divisive agenda with full force. The recently aired two-part BBC documentary clearly portrays how Mr Narendra Modi handled the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat that then catapulted him to being the Hindu Hriday-samrat and how he has unabashedly implemented the Gujarat model at the Center as was evident during the recent Delhi riots in 2020 that reeked of strikingly similar modus operandi. The so-called main opposition party, Congress, is found woefully inept in mounting a defense at such a critical juncture. The Congress party does not even make a meek attempt to counter the terror unleashed in the name of Hindutva. Take, for instance, the campaign ran by Congress in 2019. While the supreme leader was basking in the glory of ‘Hara Hara Modi” chants, the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, instead of downplaying the religious rhetoric, was too happy showing off his sacred thread and doubling up on visiting temples and announcing his Brahmin credentials as if it was not already evident. Even as cow hooligans continue to claim innocent Muslims’ lives with full impunity and lynch them in broad day light, the Congress does not feel the need or the urgency to stand by the victims. The righteous indignation with which the “civil society” riled up during the Nirbhaya episode is nowhere to be seen now. Shouldn’t there be a clamor for legislation on lines of something like a POCSO act to protect the next innocent Junaid from being burned to death? A truly ideological opposition in the country would make such a demand but alas even the Muslim community does not mobilize against these cow crimes with the same vigor that it showed in opposing comments on the prophet.
Where does the Congress party stand on the critical issue of caste? Though a much needed caste census was done in 2011 under the aegis of the UPA government, it never released the data. The BJP that took power in 2014 firmly continues the same stance to this day. Both the parties seem to prefer Kamandal politics over Mandal politics in the fear of reinvigorating a Bahujan awakening if the true numbers are revealed. In fact, the Congress dreads the hey days of UP-Bihar Bahujan camaraderie that relegated it to not merely a third but an appallingly fourth position in those states. It’s traditional vote base was effortlessly usurped by the BJP that proves beyond doubt that both these parties court the same vote. In a state like Telangana that it literally created but somehow failed to capitalize on that, the Congress remains loyal to the cash-rich “upper” caste Reddy community that it has propped up for decades. This, despite two ignominious defeats consecutively in 2014 and 2018 Assembly elections as well as 2019 Parliamentary elections and all indicators pointing to its relegation to the third position in the state with BJP now being touted as the principal opposition party of Telangana. The state’s BC-SC-ST-Muslim population totals to more than 80% yet the Congress party does not feel it is the need of the hour to build new leadership from the bahujan sections. Rather it opted for MrRevanth Reddy as the PCC chief who, by the way, cut his teeth in politics as an ABVP leader. It is so absurd that even the BJP had the common sense to prop up a BC leader MrBandi Sanjay to helm the state while Congress continues to ignore ground realities.
The best the Grand Old Party has come up with regards to identity politics is to elect a Dalit leader MrMallikharjunKharge as the party chief. While this may come across as a bold move, this is nothing more than a mere eyewash akin to the BJP making Mr Ramnath Kovind or Ms Draupadi Murmu President while true power in the party still wrests in the hands of the Gandhi family.
On the economic policy front, the Adani saga lays threadbare the crony capitalism of the current dispensation. Mr Rahul Gandhi certainly made a spirited attempt in Lok Sabha in exposing this. But they seem to have left it at that with no further follow-up or mobilization of mass opinion against the government for its egregious and willful misdeeds in promoting Brand Adani. Ms Mahua Moitra, an MP from West Bengal’s TMC has steadfastly continued her tirade on the Adani row both in Parliament and outside. Perhaps the Congress is weary of its own track record in promoting other crony capitalists during its tenure, a proof again of similar overarching policies pursued by the 2 parties. Both are wedded to unbridled capitalist expansion as the only way forward for the country with no serious thought for an inclusive agenda that takes in to consideration the aspirations of the rural poor, the agrarian communities and the urban poor that is ever-expanding. Mining barons plundering the natural wealth that belongs to the adivasis abound in both parties. While the Prime Minister rants about “Revdi culture” berating welfare schemes, the only vociferous opposition comes from Tamil Nadu’s DMK particularly MrPalanivel Thiagarajan but not a single discerning voice is heard from the Congress.
In essence, a truly viable opposition to BJP’s onslaught and sprint towards “One nation” policies can only come from individual state-level forces and groups that are ideologically polar opposite. Congress does not seem to be prepared to take up such a fight at least in its current form. Its continuation of similar status quo approaches is unlikely to fetch any electoral gains because the BJP has proven far better on those fronts, be it in continuation of no-holds-barred capitalism, suppression of Mandal politics or forceful homogenization of an inherently diverse India. Thus, Mr Amit Shah’s vision of Congress’ decimation in 2024 might even pave the way for a much needed ultimate ideological battle between an avowedly Nationalist, unapologetically capitalist and a proudly conservative force and a rainbow coalition of forces that might emerge from the aggrieved sections including working class poor, Dalits, women, Muslims, adivasis and BCs.
Naveen (Nijam) Gara, a Telugu from Hyderabad, is a physician currently practicing in the USA. His articles are devoted towards voicing the concerns of downtrodden and marginalized communities..