The recent ‘Mood of the Nation’ poll by this website has revealed that the Congress party is perceived to be utterly corrupt by all sections of the electorate, the lone exception being that of Muslims. (Read the Poll here) http://bit.ly/lKwpdf
The questions naturally arise: why is the Muslim community out of sync with the nationwide trend, and is not the community equally affected by mis-governance and galloping corruption under the Congress-led UPA government? The Muslim community is well aware that this government has done precious little for their welfare. But now the Congress is seeking to appease them, by on the one hand targeting symbols of the Hindu community, and on the other by courting extreme elements among them and making shocking comments that appeal to their baser sentiments.
And, it seems that Muslims have lapped up every cynical action of the Congress government at the Centre. The latest example is the merciless beating up of Baba Ramdev’s supporters in Delhi. The Manmohan Singh government has also been punitively targeting Hindu organizations and the Narendra Modi regime in Gujarat mainly to appease Muslims.
All these provocative actions are part of a well orchestrated strategy drawn up by Rahul Gandhi and his political advisers to consolidate the Muslim vote in Congress party’s favour in order to achieve a near majority for his party in the 2014 parliamentary polls.
The strategy of wooing Muslims seems to be working as the Congress party’s appeal and support among Muslims has risen substantially in the past three years. It is another matter that the Congress party’s image among the general public has taken a big knock nationwide due to the series of scams that it is embroiled in.
As a part of this strategy, the Congress party has let loose Digvijaya Singh to mount a verbal offensive against everything that the Muslims hate. As Rahul Gandhi’s stalking horse and chosen man to lead this mission, Digvijaya commiserates with the families of alleged terrorists in Azamgarh, abuses the Sangh parivar, refers to Bin laden as “Osamaji” and calls Baba Ramdev a thug and worse.
Digvijaya spins bizarre theories blaming the RSS for the Pakistan’s ISI inflicted 26/11 Mumbai attacks. When such outlandish theories come from a Hindu Congressman like Digvijaya Singh, it gives Muslims more solace than hearing them from one amongst them; and it establishes them more firmly in their feelings of separateness and victimhood. Appallingly, today, Digvijay Singh is a huge draw among Muslims (particularly in UP) and has acquired stature among them even as the rest of the country lampoons him.
The Wikileaks expose about Rahul Gandhi’s comments to the US ambassador that home grown terror from “radicalized Hindu groups” pose a greater danger to India than terror activities of Pakistan sponsored Lashkar-e-Taiba has only sounded like pleasant music to the Muslim ears.
Never in Indian electoral history has the Congress party wooed the Muslim community so zealously to consolidate this vote bank as it is doing now. The Muslim vote meandered about in the last two decades among various claimants and the Congress believes that the time is opportune seek to monopolize the Muslim vote now.
Post 1993, after the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid structure in Ayodhya, Muslims deserted the Congress party in large numbers and gravitated towards various non-BJP alternatives in different states: it was the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, Janata Dal in Karnataka and Orissa etc.
Though the return of Muslims to the Congress fold began in 1998 in reaction to the growing popular standing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in national politics, the process was gradual as Muslims continued to entertain doubts about the Congress party under a Catholic born Sonia Gandhi. The Congress led UPA government’s overt friendship with the United States as evident from its pursuit of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal stalled the return of Muslims to the Congress fold around the time of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
But since 2009, the Congress party has attempted every cynical manouvre to woo Muslims to its side. That these attempts have not met with any strong disapproval from either the political class or the mainstream media has only made the Congress party bolder.
While some non-BJP parties hesitate to criticize the Congress party’s cynical communal politics for fear of losing their share of the Muslim vote, others are living in the elusive hope of broad-basing their own appeal by seeming to be more ‘liberal’ and ‘inclusive’.
In the eighties, sustained efforts by the BJP exposed the Congress party’s vote bank politics and forced it to reverse gear for fear of backlash from the Hindu community. One might argue that the public mood in 2011 is different and now the Congress can safely pursue its Hindu-baiting strategy. But if recent Kerala and Assam polls are any indication, Hindus react sharply to the aggressive Muslim mobilization now as they did before. The Congress party knows it full well as it paid a heavy price in Kerala polls. (Read my article on the subject here) http://bit.ly/jwLOPc
It seems that the Muslim sentiment in the country is swinging heavily towards the Congress now. And, if that party’s crass attempts at wooing the Muslim community succeed, come Lok Sabha elections, the Congress may become the sole claimant of the Muslim vote nationwide. However, the party may be miscalculating if it believes that it can succeed in this even while keeping intact its broad base of 2009 vote across all communities.
What will be interesting to observe is whether the Congress party will succeed in polarizing the Muslim vote nationwide without facing a backlash from the Hindu community. Such a backlash is not visible as of now but when that party’s intentions become public, particularly when the Parliament debates the anti-Hindu draft Communal Violence bill drawn up by the National Advisory Council (NAC), it is likely that the party may end up losing more than it has gained by its appeasement efforts.
The Congress party’s traditional appeal extends over all sections of the electorate and that has been its innate strength. It has always been a loser when it has played communal politics. But it doesn’t seem to have learned its lessons. Will it be any different the next time? The Congress party perhaps hopes so. But I don’t.
The author is a noted poll analyst