When Sonia also abandons Muslims


Speaking at the India Today conclave last week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a sense, blamed Muslims for the loss of her party in the elections. She said the reason that her party had lost was that the BJP had managed to convince the people that Congress was a Muslim party. “In my party, the great majority is Hindu. Yes, there are Muslims too. So I fail to understand this branding us as a Muslim party,” went the Sonia’s words. Coming from her the words had troubling overtones.  It exhibited a certain defensiveness and diffidence about being seen as a Muslim party. Or for that matter even being seen as a secular party. Instead Gandhi seemed to be competing with the BJP for a Hindu tag and willing to shed any pretence of being a representative of Muslims too. This, in the words of the activist Harsh Mander, “completes the abandonment of Muslims in India”. They have become a liability for any political party.

Though Muslims are already facing hard times in the country, Congress abandonment points towards  a tougher period ahead.  The unenviability of being a Muslim in India can be guaged from the fact  that being associated with the community is seen as detrimental to the political fortunes of a party.  Chary of a political consensus in the country against Muslims,  secular political parties are scared to speak in favour of Muslims. And the parties like the BJP and its larger parivar who are the most vitriolic against the community stand to gain electorally.

Modi has ushered in a new political sensibility and a new ruling intelligence explicitly informed by the resolve to reclaim India for Hindus. Hence without being restrained by any secular inhibition his government sees itself as the defender of the interests of the majority community against the “secular appeasement” of the minorities. And as for the state of the country’s secularism is concerned, less said the better. The truth is that the secularism is a conundrum in India that is yet to be resolved.  The parties like to talk tangentially about it but refuse to grapple with its import. India may be constitutionally and electorally secular but institutionally the situation is one of indifference to the idea. Now with the rise to absolute power of a Hindu revivalist leader confronting India’s secularism with its most serious existential crisis and also exposing its hypocrisy, the situation  is no longer what it was once. India is no longer at a fork in the road as it was during the Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign for the prime ministership. We  have an India now where the BJP creed has acquired a much wider resonance, forcing the other parties to fall in line. What is more, there is no secular fightback, even in its hypocritical avatar in even the distant sight.  Sonia Gandhi’s statement will tell you that.


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