When the ruling Congress party was cornered on the issue of corruption, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi needed a protective weapon for diverting the corruption issue found it in ‘secularism’ and hurriedly incorporated that term into the Preamble through a constitutional amendment without any discussion as she had placed the entire opposition in jail during Emergency. To justify both her declaration of Emergency and newfound secularism, Indira Gandhi took the support of Left, especially then reigning CPI. Writes Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Secularism is the most misunderstood and most misinterpreted word in Indian politics. Some parties claim themselves as secular, while others are labelled as communalists. This clash of Secular vs Communalism has continued for several decades without the term secular being there in the Constitution’s Preamble. When the ruling Congress party was cornered on the issue of corruption, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi needed a protective weapon for diverting the corruption issue found it in ‘secularism’ and hurriedly incorporated that term into the Preamble through a constitutional amendment without any discussion as she had placed the entire opposition in jail during Emergency. To justify both her declaration of Emergency and newfound secularism, Indira Gandhi took the support of Left, especially then reigning CPI. Since then, a lot of water has flown down the rivers of India and issues have changed, but the political labelling of secular and communal continued with the support of Left intellectuals who took over the job of being the unofficial issuer of secular certificates for political parties. What they did was not a fair analysis of the political ideology of parties but to protect the Left and Congress through their academic output. So their narration survived till the economic crisis forced the country to choose economic reforms. The youth understood how this country’s economic growth capacity was chained through a fancy ‘socialistic agenda’ and how the national pride was suppressed with the false narration of history by JNU academicians. The energy of Indian youth made them understand secularism’s real meaning, unlike the Nehru drafted and Congress and Left continued minority appeasement in the garb of secularism.
The defeated political parties are now trying to regroup in the four States and one Union Territory, which are going to polls this summer through different permutations and political combinations while their media cheerleaders are projecting it as a secular front. But in the field they are hugging the minority communal parties with the sole aim of remaining relevant in elections.
The Left and Congress play the funniest part of the game. They are playing the drama of ‘friends in Bengal and foes in Kerala’. The Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Ramesh Chennithala has said that “CPI(M) would stoop to any level to garner votes”. He also accuses the party of trying to silence the media in Kerala by amending the Police Act under the guise of checking cybercrimes. On the other hand, CPI(M) accused Congress of “surrendering to the communal Muslim League that represents the religious hatred”. The Left accused Congress of ‘political opportunism’ by joining hands with radical Islamic groups in Kerala. The accusations of CPI(M) and Congress against each other is such that people can conclude that ‘both of them are communal’ in their outlook and for them ‘secularism’ is only a façade. Despite all those accusations on the west coast by Congress on CPI(M) and vice versa both the parties travel to the east coast State of West Bengal, where their mutual criticisms are forgotten and they exhibit electoral bonhomie.
In Bengal, the ‘secular’ parties CPI (M) and Congress are in alliance with Indian Secular Front (ISF) floated by a rabid Islamist and Furfura pir Abbas Siddiqui. Both the parties shared the podium with that communal leader Abbas Siddiqui which senior Congress leader Anand Sharma is now questioning. His statement that “Congress can’t be selective in fighting communalist but must do so in all its manifestations, irrespective of religion and colour. The presence and endorsement of West Bengal party president is painful and shameful”, further demanded a clarification on that alliance which was stitched without a proper resolution from Congress Working Committee (CWC). But what senior leader Anand Sharma forgets is that Congress has always followed the same policy of doing business with Muslim parties ignoring the country’s secular ethos. It was the Congress party’s electoral association with AIMIM in Hyderabad, Muslim League in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, National Conference in Jammu & Kashmir and many Christian parties in Kerala and Northeast States which gained the pseudo-secular tag on that party. The West Bengal PCC president and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tries to justify his communal alliance “on the ground reality” of West Bengal. Thus conceding that Congress and Left can’t survive the electoral battle without the support of the communal outfit. Bengal has about 24 per cent Muslim votes and is able to influence the electoral verdict in about 100 assembly constituencies. In those constituencies, it is a total communal campaign for many decades, irrespective of who is ruling Bengal. When the Left was ruling, it was pro-Muslim policy in the name of secularism. When UPA was ruling in Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Muslims must have first claim on resources.
Using Religion to Uplift Minority Community
In a secular country like India, where the schemes should have been framed based on economic and social position, the pseudo-secular parties, especially the Congress, gave an undeserving religious link. The very appointment of committees to determine one particular religion’s socio-economic status is an unjustifiable anti-secular activity. Identifying the districts where Muslims are in good number for the special focus of development is another communal political activity of Congress that is not acceptable for the new generation of Indians.
The post-economic reforms generation, which are now in their 30s, have a different outlook. With technology ruling the world, the social barriers of caste, religion are breached by this generation. They want that merit should be the basis for economic uplift and no community should be favoured.
The writer is a retired Professor and political columnist based in Vijayawada