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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 50-51, December 3, December 10 2022 [Double issue]

Strengthening the Congress with new ideology and vigour | Arun Srivastava

Friday 2 December 2022

by Arun Srivastava

With Congress consistently on move towards its final destination, Srinagar, the BJP will turn more aggressive and mount a virulent calumny against Rahul Gandhi. BJP is certainly not afraid of Congress, instead it is the move of Rahul Gandhi to give a leftist orientation to its ideological narrative that has chilling effect on Modi.

Historical facts are testimony to the shift of allegiance of the rightist elements and supporters. They continue to identify with the fascist and rightist forces to a certain extent. Hitler too did not enjoy the support of his supporters beyond a stage. Once these people realise that the rightist forces and its heroes have lost their relevance they make a turn around. The Indian rightists are yet to be indoctrinated of the ideology of fascism. They are simply of the nature of turn coats. Most of them are from urban middle class and it was their yearning for prosperity and better future that made them to rally behind Modi and echo his slogan of Hindutva.

The Hindutva Bhaktas, precisely the Modi Bhakts, could be classified in two segments; one is the well off urban middle class and second, the people belonging to the OBC and EBC section, especially the youths. The first section is quite vulnerable to the changing times and politics. They cannot be the supporters of the RSS and BJP for a longer period. They joined Hindutva bandwagon after realising that Modi would provide a real alternative to corrupt Congress and bring about basic structure of the economy of the country. But now they are feeling disillusioned. For them Hindutva has lost its charm. These people have already started showing their disenchantment and shifting away from the BJP.

The second class is not cynical enthusiasts of Hindutva though they are vocal. Their main motto has been to use the BJP and Modi rule for their upward mobility and to be counted amongst the decision makers. Though there are regional parties in the states, like Samajwadi Party in UP or RJD in Bihar, which represent the aspirations of the OBCs and EBCs, they find BJP as an easy and better alternative as it is still in the process of expansion. In Bihar and UP the BJP has preferred OBC and EBC leaders to the upper caste leaders. Even in Bengal these people especially who have migrated from Bihar and UP are rallying behind the BJP and RSS.

The urban middle class is already drifting away could be discovered from the defeat of the BJP even in the places where the Modi bhakts have significant presence. There is no denying the fact that the BJP has been Congressised after Modi becoming the prime minister. His slogan “ Congress Mukta Bharat” was primarily aimed at winning these people away from the Congress. Unlike the middle class of Bengal, they found it difficult to rally behind the left or any other non-liberal party in other states. Obviously the best choice before them in the prevailing economic and political situation was the BJP.

Modi would be committing the biggest blunder of his life if he comes to live in some utopian paradise and believe that their hearts have undergone change and have become passionate followers of his politics of Hindutva. The major factor that frightens Modi is the possibility of the liberal Indians going back to the fold of Congress. This section constitutes the most potent supporter of change. They divorced the Congress perceiving it to be a party of the veted interest, blood suckers and corrupt people. Congress has also come to acquire the reputation of being the political forum of oppressors and perpetrators of crime and rampaging the izzat (prestige) of the dalits and proletariats. Since these people dictated the functioning of the Congress and have their control on the organisation, the liberals parted ways.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election these people had solidly rallied behind the BJP, with Modi making the promise of bringing down moon to their door step. But the post-election developments have exposed his hypocrisy. They have come to subscribe the people’s perception that his promises are simply hoax and speaks simply lies.

One ought to not forget that Rahul Gandhi is the scion of the Nehru Gandhi family. Politics is in his blood. Moreover he is a Congress Lok Sabha member. Obviously it would be naive to construe that his Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) has no connection with the Congress or will not come to push ahead the Congress ideology and agenda. But he also has learnt during these years that simply by patronising the regional upper caste and corrupt satraps the Congress cannot think to survive in the competitive political market when both the ideologies and politics have become market products. To survive the Congress has to reinvent itself.

His BJY was in Kerala for nearly 18 days. Leaders of the CPM across the country are angry on Rahul for giving so much time in the state which is ruled by an anti-BJP party. They say that he should have focussed more on UP, Bihar and other northern and eastern states. Being the Congress’s principal opponent in Kerala, it’s natural for the CPM to target the party. But they tend to ignore the fact that he used Kerala to project his image of a Left to Centre Congress leader, No other state would have provided this opportunity.

What is Rahul Gandhi walking for? He is certainly not walking for Congress Bachao. Though this yatra he intends to win over the lost trust of the urban middle class and prepare a new space amongst the poor, dalit and labourers, which so far has been traditional support base of the Left forces. It is sad that the unwillingness and fear of reprisal has turned the left forces to fight against the BJP. Unfortunately the left leaders are still clear whether BJP is a fascist party.

It cannot be denied that Rahul’s BJY has erased the sense of fear from the minds of the people. Even before launch of the Yatra these people were scared of CBI and IT and punitive action by the police. Delhi police has earned the worst notoriety in this matter in the country. The Delhi police takes orders from the local street level BJP workers rather than its top officials for arresting and putting in jail the political opponents of BJP.

An insight into the mode of Yatra will make it evident that it has chosen its route through the BJP ruled states only to take the people out of fear syndrome. And it has worked. The massive and unprecedented response it got in Karnataka and MP. A section of the people and particularly the Modi media are too eager to know whether this massive show of support would be translated into votes in 2024 Lok Sabha election. This is preposterous question. Rahul in the first place has been striving to erase the fear of reign of terror of BJP which was perpetrated through lynching, love jihad and conversion.

For protecting the country and its people from the rightist terror and violence it is imperative that the element of fear must be erased from the minds and hearts of the common people. They must muster courage to speak on the face of the RSS and BJP leaders. The Congress could not challenge the operation Lotus in Goa, MP simply out of fear. It is a sad commentary that senior Congress leaders in these meekly surrendered before the wishes of Modi and Shah.

Of course it is a fact that political yatras have been used as a potent political tool over the years to woo the voters at the grassroots level. But this is not the case with Bharat Jodo Yatra. After resigning as the president of Congress in 2019 he has come to out that the people ought to be made conscious of their strength and threat of hatred and fear. It is also imperative to arouse the self-confidence of the Congressmen at the village level. Else Congress would be finished for ever. No amount of electoral wins would help salvage the situation. Be it pan-India padyatras or state-level parikramas, political leaders must take to the streets to connect with the people and party cadres,

There is no let-up in the RSS’s old favourite pastime of minority-bashing and playing havoc with a democratic-secular India. Its chef do not feel ashamed of threatening the Muslims. Their pet line has been, “Let the Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the good-will of the majority”. RSS and BJP has been using the word Hindutva simply to fool the poor people. Rahul Gandhi on November 29, 2022 confronted the RSS-BJP’s overt religiosity in public life by saying that Hinduism ordained rulers to look after the poor and the weak, those who struggle daily for survival, but this government rewarded only those who worship Narendra Modi. After visiting Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain he even used religious metaphors to deal with political issues. He argued that “tapasya” was critical in Hindu religion and it evoked reverence.

The BJY has changed the perception of the people towards Congress got manifest in describing Rahul as Tapaswi. Addressing the people he said; “What we are doing is nothing; maybe a tapasya for three months. The real tapasya is done by the farmers who wake at 4am daily and feed the nation with their blood and toil. The youth who struggle to complete their studies and their families who support them despite financial strains. Tapasya is done by the small shopkeepers and modest industries, which create livelihood for people.”

He added: “But two industrialist friends of Narendra Modi, who worship him day and night, get everything. Two, or five, industrialists can get whatever they want — ports, airports, railways, roads, power. Modi is handing over the nation’s entire wealth to them. But those who struggle, serve this country, get nothing. I met thousands of farmers during the Bharat Jodo Yatra and they told me they neither get the right price for their crops nor support of any kind.”

Rahul said: “Money is sucked out of the pockets of the poor every day to be given to the rich — petrol, diesel, fertiliser and prices of other commodities are raised for this. Youths don’t get job; they appear in examinations after tapasya and encounter a Vyapam scam. Tapasya mein chori ho gai… the tapasya of small shopkeepers and businesses is crushed by notebandi. These are not policies, these are weapons to crush you — notebandi, flawed GST, lockdowns.” He alleged that the objective was to destroy the “tapasya” of ordinary Indians.

Interpreting religion or Hinduism in terms of morality, sacrifice and service, he said; “The BJP people worship the gods and then act against those who do tapasya. This is an insult to god. Millions of people are supporting the Bharat Jodo Yatra because they have understood the game. The media doesn’t show the Bharat Jodo Yatra but the fault doesn’t lie with these reporters. They are controlled by the same industrialists who worship Modi. But this Yatra will bring freedom for the media as well. It is their Yatra as well. It is people’s yatra.”

Rahul’s extreme emphasis on BJY, apparently his even not focussing too much on the Gujarat election which has been a struggle for survival for Modi, has created much discomfiture amongst the Congress leaders. They nurse the view a small thrust from Rahul would have swung the public mood in favour of the Congress. They strongly believe Rahul should have involved himself in Gujarat with greater intensity. But for Rahul keeping away from the Gujarat battle is the part of the strategy to root out the rightist forces. His absence from Gujarat is in fact a test of the success for his BJY. He is already on the record; ”Bharat Jodo Yatra has not been planned for political returns. Instead its sole purpose is to convince the people that India would suffer irreparable damage if it continued on its current path. This Yatra has gone beyond the Congress. It now represents India’s soul, it reflects India’s voice.”

He said; “The spirit of the Yatra is to make the country focus on the attempt to change its nature. This country has never been fearful. Even in the worst of times, India was not scared. The people of India have a particular culture — the culture of compassion, of respect, of affection. This is our biggest strength”.

With the Yatra getting unprecedented peoples response, the BJP has pressed its dirty tricks department to unleash vitriolic against Rahul. At a public meeting in MP, Rahul unravelled that the BJP top leaders have been consistently trying to malign his image by spending crores of rupees but the truth could not be suppressed. “Their attacks indicate that I am on the right path. My strength is that now I understand the RSS-BJP much better,” he emphasised.

Modi’s venomous crusade against Rahul, makes it explicit that ’Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is on the right track and has shaken the trust of the BJP in the people of the country. The BJP has added two new issues to its hatred campaign against Rahul and Congress; first, how can Rahul unite India when he is incapable of getting his own house in order, and the second is, the communists and those advocating the political line of tukde tukde of India are infiltrating the Congress on large scale.

Of course the Congress was facing the worst-ever existential crisis. Plagued by desertions, defections, resignations, factional rebellions (G-23) and second-rung leaders mouthing BJP lines, the scenario of party getting shattered and finished was attracting the peoples’ attention. The future turned misty with a number of senior leaders divorcing the Congress’s political ideology and embracing RSS’s politics of Hindutva. But one thing is quite noticeable and worth taking note. Rahul was never perturbed of these developments. He never tried to meet these leaders and counsel them to rethink of their steps. The most glaring was his unwillingness to talk to Scindia and prevail upon him to retrace his step. He even did not persuade Gulab Nabi Azad to reconsider his move.

May be even after the Bharat Jodo Yatra culminates, some Congress leaders would leave the party and join hands with Modi. But it certainly would not herald the death of the party. This underlines the beginning of new Congress. The feudal lords who till date have dictated the functioning of the Congress would eventually get neutralised and side lined. Their places would be occupied by the new faces having leftist and pro people attitude. Rahul is building a party which take the challenges thrown by the saffron brigade head on.

Rahul is preparing the Congress to face even the worst situation and political scenario. There is every possibility that 2024 would witness worst nature of politicking. If the BJP fails to get the peoples’ mandate in that backdrop it may resort to some extra parliamentary mechanism to take control of power. The manner in which Law Minister Rijiju has been threatening the judiciary is a precursor of the situation India would face. Rahul Gandhi at the beginning of this march had dropped the indication of the developments that may take. He had criticised the BJP-RSS for taking over the institutions of the state and the structure of the state.

Not only Modi and Shah are making joke of Leftists and the left parties of being B team of the Congress, even some senior Congress leaders feel aggrieved at this move of Rahul. It is alleged that Left leaders had joined the Congress during Indira Gandhi’s rule,but they destroyed the Congress. This time Rahul is not drafting Left leaders. Instead he is taking to leftist policies and political actions. This expansion of its social base on the ideological plank of Hindu Rashtra needs to be confronted with a political, ideological and organisational alternative.

These people are going to be vanguards of the new Congress. Recently chief of Swaraj India Yogendra Yadav, who participated in the Yatra, told a news TV channel that the yatra is beginning to change the national narrative. He also said it is not sufficient to defeat the BJP. He further said that Rahul Gandhi’s “pappu image is shattered for ordinary people”. He also spoke about how the yatra is beginning to change the national narrative and a shift away from the BJP’s dominance in the media to issues of concern such as inflation, inequality, unemployment, etc. After saying “the tide is turning”, Yadav added, “I won’t say public opinion has shifted decisively,” but “the climate of loneliness and fear has cracked but not shattered. The hundreds of people who are turning up to watch the yatra are saying no to the politics of hate.”

As party president Rahul has not only inducted left activists into his core group, he had also sought the advice of Left-leaning intellectuals. In the recent past, a number of such activists have also joined the lower rungs of the party, including some who were once bitter critics of Congress policies. Those who have joined the party say the new Congress under Rahul offers a lot more promise. One thing is absolutely clear that the present Congress is not the old Congress. It takes much strength to openly speak against a handful of industrialists.

The difference between the left parties and Rahul leaning towards left ideas is to be properly understood. Rahul desires them to be a progressive pro-people Congress leaders and activists. In Bengal the Left leaders are not hesitant to join hands with BJP for defeating Mamata Banerjee.

Modi has come out with yet another spike against Rahul. He said people who were dethroned long back were taking out a yatra to get back to power. “They can do it but they are walking with those who stalled the Narmada Dam project for 40 years,” Modi said, referring to the Narmada Bachao Andolan spearheaded by Medha Patkar, who recently joined the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra recently. This is nothing but certainly the manifestation of desperation.

This is for the first time in the cherished history of Congress that a dalit leader Mallikarjun Kharge got elected as the party president. President of the party from 2017 and 2019, Rahul quit the post accepting moral responsibility for the party’s dismal performance in the 2019 general election. While quitting he had made a very poignant but hard hitting observation that some senior leaders did not act in the interest of the party and take the electorate fight to the den of the BJP. What does it imply? This is major factor that made Rahul opt for leftist orientation to the party’s policy and ideology.

Rahul blunted Modi’s attack on Congress of being a dynast party by emphasising that the party should select a non-Gandhi as the party chief. This was an astute move to counter criticism of the Gandhi family’s stranglehold over the party. Nonetheless it would be an act of naiveté to construe that the Congress brought in a dalit as its president simply to counter Modi’s jibe of Congress being a dynastic party. Instead it was the part of the strategy to give a left image to the party and show the feudal lords in the party who so far have been dictating its political line and agenda.

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