Rahul's 'Shah Bano' bend
To Rahul, should go the credit of helping the Congress finally shed its façade of secularism.
Rajiv Gandhi, India's youngest PM, had lots going for him until the Shah Bano case happened in 1986. The Congress party which had an absolute majority in Parliament at the time, passed an act called The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 that nullified the Supreme Court's ruling that Shah Bano, a poor widow be given maintenance money similar to alimony.
The government's reaction in this case seemed mired in confusion. The same government which initially seemed prepared to defend the Supreme Court's secular judgment, when confronted with the prospect of antagonising the minority votes, did a volte face and instead went all out to appease regressive sentiments.
Rajiv, sure, must have regretted his naivete, for in more ways than one, the Shah Bano case triggered a wave of Hindu fundamentalism, whose effects are too well known.
Twenty six years later, the Congress campaign in the UP polls is just as regressive. So while one leader never ceases to harp upon the Batla encounter, another keeps promising 9 per cent reservation for Muslims from the OBC quota, defying and even challenging the Election Commission at will.
Add to that the Congress party's notoriety in publicly distancing itself from its truant Law Minister, but tacitly encouraging him even more. Besides, portions of a quawali which is part of the Congress' official campaign is communally 'dangerous' to say the least with its mudslinging lyrics- Aatanki kahe humko, aatank khud karate.. ( you call us terrorists when you carry out terror acts yourself).
What leaves one baffled is Rahul Gandhi's deafening silence on the 'communal controversies' which his party's senior leaders are raking at will. Last month, I was called on NDTV India for a debate on Priyanka Gandhi's impact on UP elections. I had categorically stated in that debate that Rahul and Priyanka should not consider themselves national leaders till they stop beating around the bush on crucial national issues.
If Rahul is leading the Congress campaign in UP, he must also own up to the regressive communal agenda that characterises his party's campaign. How long can the Digvijay Singhs and Salman Khursheeds shield him after all?
What Rajiv Gandhi had done in his naivete, Rahul Gandhi does brazenly. To him, should go the credit of helping the Congress finally shed its façade of secularism. The UP elections marks Rahul's Shah-Bano bend, the first clear indication of his possible agenda for the nation. This bend, is of course, not without its ramifications.
One, it gives the BJP one last opportunity to reach out to the OBCs and Dalits and bring them into its fold. More dangerously, it can bring religion back into the forefront of our politics, negating all development issues.
Interestingly, in the UP elections, the decisive fight is for the 3rd position with both the Congress and BJP vying for that spot. It's the 3rd and 4th spot which will determine who rules UP. Of course, the crucial difference being that for a change the Congress' vindictive communal agenda makes Narendra Modi look a saint in comparison.
In the larger interests of the country's integrity, it's important that the UP results demolish Rahul's prime ministerial ambitions once and for all.
More about Tuhin A Sinha
Tuhin A. Sinha is an author, scriptwriter and columnist based in Mumbai, India.
Tuhin was born in Jamshedpur. He has studied at Loyola School, Jamshedpur, Hindu college, Delhi and the National Institute of Advertising, New Delhi.
Tuhin is best known for his novels, Of Love And Politics, That Thing Called Love and 22 Yards. That Thing Called Love is now out in several regional languages as well. Tuhin has scripted several TV shows, apart from having worked as story/script/creative consultant with leading Film and TV production houses.
Tuhin is also a guest columnist with TOI, DNA and some lifestyle magazines. A keen observer of national politics, the subject finds its way in many of Tuhin’s writings.
Tuhin is presently working on his fourth book, the Autobiography.
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