“An Appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”–Winston Churchill
By : Shashank Suresh
It’s often believed that politics is a game of changing ideologies, where opinions and facts shift based on need and circumstances. However, the one thing which has remained highlighted from the past few years is the slow and eventual decay of Congress.
Congress, the first and undeniably the most important party in the Indian political history of 70 years since Independence, has gone through absolute highs and lows. A healthy opposition is a very important facet of a functioning and vibrant democracy. However, the past few years have shown that Congress rather than being a healthy opposition has dug their graves with shifting ideologies and opinions. They do not seem to have a strong ideology to stick to but rather keep changing themselves according to what the BJP does.
With the Uttar Pradesh Elections trailing up in early next year, in the month of February to March 2022 to elect 403 members of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, it’s essential to look at Congress and their role in recent state elections and to see the kind of impact they have had.
Congress, founded in 1885, was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement.
During independence, owing to differences with the division and working of the Indian sub-continent (including Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947), Congress and the Muslim League, which was led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, gave in to the two-nation theory and carved out Pakistan which was supposedly friendly for Muslims. The memories of partition with millions of people killed and displaced still haunts the land of the Ganges.
Congress, ever since Independence, has maintained a tag of being a “secular party”. Secularism in the most basic sense means, “not discriminating between any religion by the State and separation of politics and religion.” While on paper, Secularism does sound idealistic, however, when it came to ground reality, the Congress version of Secularism was barely similar to its theoretical principle.
From projecting an image of being friendly to minorities, to actively choosing to engage or abstaining from engaging in violence against majority religion, i.e., the Hindus, Congress ended up alienating a large section of the population. The BJP with its strong ideological links to Hindutva and their support for the rights of Hindus have shown a sharp mirror to Congress’ idea of secularism which was just Minority Appeasement in disguise.
Recent Elections and Congress Appeasement
Kerala- As the absentee Member of Parliament for Amethi, Rahul Gandhi was well aware that his chances of winning the seat were slim. He might have sought a political base in any other state, but he selected Wayanad, which, in addition to being predominantly Muslim, has numerous active elements pushing a pan-Islamic agenda against India’s secular principles.
Bengal- The Indian Secular Front (ISF) is a political ally of the Congress party in Bengal. Abbass Siddiqui is the founder and a Muslim preacher. Mamata Banerjee, unsurprisingly, has always cultivated extremist elements like the ISF. Abbass Siddiqui’s uncle, in particular, is well-known for his ties to the TMC. Only after the nephew failed to reach an agreement with the TMC did he negotiate a deal with a frantic Congress on the rebound. The fact that Congress was ready to seize TMC’s leftovers, demonstrates how rudderless the party is right now.
Assam- Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is a close partner of the Congress party. By managing the settlement of illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in the country, this party feeds on their votes. Like the Owaisi brothers in Hyderabad, Badruddin and his party dream of a future in which India has a Muslim majority. This was evident when Badruddin aggressively opposed the Assam government’s Population Control Bill and even pushed Muslims to have more children.
While appeasing Muslims, we must not forget about Hindus, who make up the bulk of the population in this state. As several so-called secular parties have demonstrated, tokenism toward Muslims has proven to be an effective and low-cost strategy to attract a big number of voters. The BJP may have earned a comfortable majority in terms of seats, but with only 31% of the popular vote, it still has a long way to go to solidify its hold on power.
There has been a full circle of Congress from its function in the times of Mahatma Gandhi. From a party that opposed the Muslim League’s nefarious plans, the Gandhis have devastated the party to the point where it must rely on the Muslim League’s ideological offspring for survival. It’s no surprise that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Congress to be disbanded following India’s independence.