There may be a section of minorities to whom this strategy may please, but the reality is that not only has this angered the majority population but also those minorities who believe themselves to be an integrated part of India
The Congress party began its campaign in Karnataka with the belief that it will win the state polls to be held next week. Historically, Karnataka has voted for alternate governments, boosting Congress’ confidence in winning the Bhartiya Janata Party-ruled state. Until a couple of weeks ago, several poll estimates were showing that they were neck to neck with the BJP or even ahead in some seats. However, sometime last week, the Congress in Karnataka peaked prematurely and began to make a series of grave mistakes.
The most serious one of them all is when they compared the Popular Front of India (PFI) to the Bajrang Dal in their manifesto. The PFI is a banned organisation due to established terror links and anti-national activities. The Centre has not banned it on a whim but after gathering adequate primary-stage evidence. The decision was reviewed by a board constituted under the chairmanship of a High Court judge, which consulted with 12 state governments under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), after which they declared the Centre’s ban on PFI justified. The Bajrang Dal, on the other hand, is a social organisation working in areas of social welfare and upliftment of the needy in the name of Bajrang Bali. Enough damage was done when the Congress compared the two outfits.
The party then went a step further and sought the support of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is essentially the political front of the PFI. The PFI announced a few days ago that not only will they field their candidates only on 16 seats but also campaign for the Congress candidates on the rest of the seats. They even went ahead and appealed to the Muslim voter base to ensure that they vote for the Congress, versus any other party so as to ‘not split the minority votes’. What is even more troubling is that just yesterday, the SDPI announced that they will pick the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. Following these incidents closely, it becomes clear that the Congress, in its desperation to win Karnataka, is willing to go to any lengths to appease the minority voter base.
This isn’t surprising. If one looks at the history of the Congress party, they have put national interest behind minority interests repeatedly. Take for instance, the party granting weighted electoral rights and separate electorates to Muslims in 1916, protecting the Muslim Leaguers from counter-attacks after the violence of the Direct Action Day in 1946, giving J&K the status of a special state to protect minority interests or more recently, during the Manmohan Singh government, diverting taxpayer money to protect and develop WAQF properties. Several organisations which they shield, repeatedly prove to have links with anti-national, terrorist activities.
Now, let us consider a scenario where the Congress manages to win Karnataka with the help of SDPI. The SDPI will get to have a say on the CM candidate of the Congress. After which, several of SDPI’s radical activities will automatically have the consent of the Congress. While there may be a section of minorities to whom this strategy may please, the reality is that not only has this angered the majority population but also those minorities who believe themselves to be an integrated part of India.
There has been a systemic change that has occurred over the past decade under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India, which was looked at as fragmented, slow-growing and falling behind on developmental goals, is now on an accelerated path of development, has acquired global prestige and dominance in multilateral forums, and is truly the bright spot in the world’s economy. Every Indian (barring anti-national elements), be it the majority or the minority population is eager to partake in this growth story. Everyone is keen to benefit from India’s rise – they all seek the prospect of better education for their children, better employment opportunities for the youth and full access to the government’s social welfare schemes. The fact that PM Modi is obsessed with deeper penetration of social welfare monies to beneficiaries by introducing Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) payment systems and essentially eliminating the corrupt middlemen, has ensured that the full potential of these schemes reaches the last Indian, regardless of religion.
This is what the Congress completely fails to understand. Perhaps they are in denial, perhaps they simply cannot believe that India is capable of achieving these heights – for India could never dare to dream this big under their leadership. And it is this failure that compels them, over and over again, to seek backing from radical elements which have truly become numerically insignificant. These elements have been isolated even in their own religious groups and communities in exchange for a bright future and unstoppable growth under the prime minister’s vision. And it is this misunderstanding and overreliance on extremist minority forces that has backfired for the Congress party in Karnataka. Several of their state leaders went into damage control mode by announcing that they will build Bajrang Bali temples and arranging photo opportunities of themselves seeking blessings at temples. However, these half-baked efforts are too late. It is difficult for the Congress to dig themselves out of this pit that they’ve dug themselves so deep into.
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