Ahead of the 2019 General Elections Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday met with a group of Muslim intellectuals, opinion makers and influencers as part of its public outreach. Most prominent among them included the names of economist Abusaleh Sharif, educationists Rakhshanda Jalil, Ilyas Malik , MS Farooqui, Amir Mohammad, former Planning Commission member Syeda Saiyidain Hameed and historian S Irfan Habib. Senior Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Nadeem Javed were also present in the interaction.
According to a report published in Urdu Daily Inqlaab, Rahul Gandhi made a controversial statement during the meeting. The Urdu Daily quoted him saying, “Yes Congress is a Muslim Party.” Later on, Former Rajya Sabha MP and Journalist Shahid Siddiqui tweeted the Inqalab report and asked, “Is the quote correct or party will contradict it?” He also added, “Muslims don’t want a Muslim party, they want a National Secular party, which doesn’t discriminate between citizens.”
Urdu daily Inqalab has quoted Rahul Gandhi saying “Yes Congress is a Muslim party”. Is the quote correct or party will contradict it?
Muslims don’t want a Muslim party, they want a National Secular party, which doesn’t discriminate between citizens. @RahulGandhi @INCIndia pic.twitter.com/ZBwJ8qGcou
— shahid siddiqui (@shahid_siddiqui) July 12, 2018
The Congress had already been receiving plenty of flak for Shashi Tharoor’s fear-mongering and downright narrow-minded comments regarding India becoming a Hindu Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi’s latest comments have only fueled the fire and added insult to injury for the party’s image.
The Congress party and its leaders are only too well known for their appeasement tactics. One of the main reasons behind the shellacking of the Congress party in almost every election since 2014 is its minority appeasement politics. The Congress party had set up the AK Antony Committee tasked to delve into the reasons behind the party’s rout in the 2014 General Elections. The committee in its report noted minority appeasement as one of the reasons responsible for the poor run of results that the Congress experienced. The committee said minority appeasement politics as well as comments made by some Congress leaders demanding a quota for Muslims antagonized and alienated the majority community in the country.
Instead of introspecting and changing strategy, the Congress party is indulging even more blatantly into appeasement politics. Most recently, Congress leaders have defended the treacherous and inhumane practice of Female Genital Mutilation, supported outdated and misogynistic practices like Triple Talaq, Nikah-Halala and Polygamy and supported the demands for setting up Sharia courts in every district of India. In order to appease the radicals from a minority community, the party is seemingly more than ready to trounce upon the basic rights of women. With Rahul Gandhi’s latest alleged statement that Congress is a Muslim party, it seems they’re ready to trounce on secularism as well.
Historian S Irfan Habib told the ANI, “Today in the meeting, we advised Rahul Gandhi to not talk about the Muslim community in particular as it will give others an opportunity to polarise him as a leader. He should rather talk about poverty and education. If he does so it will affect 96 per cent Muslims like other Indians.” The intellectuals from the community also advised Rahul Gandhi to introspect on the policies that he and the Congress have followed in the past few years and asked him to change it to the way in which “the Congress worked in the era of 1970s, when it talked about inclusiveness and Sajha virasat.”
The grand old party needs to understand that it cannot project itself as the pan-India party only on the basis of minority appeasement and soft-Hindutva politics. The 2019 General Elections will be make or break for the party, and any intention to remain relevant in the Indian political scenario will depend largely on their performance in the coming elections.