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Tuhin A Sinha
Tuesday , February 14, 2012 at 11 : 40

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.


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More about Tuhin A Sinha

Tuhin A Sinha is among the best-selling authors in India, a columnist and a screenwriter. Starting in 2006 with his first book, That Thing Called Love, an unconventional romance set in a Mumbai monsoon, Tuhin has written five novels. They include The Captain (formerly 22 Yards), Of Love And Politics, The Edge of Desire and The Edge Of Power. Tuhin is acknowledged among the most prolific Indian writers with a maverick knack to experiment with new genres. While his first book was an offbeat romance, The Captain was a cricket thriller that explored the underbelly of modern cricket. Of Love And Politics was a political thriller. His last two books which comprise the Edge series can be called socio-political thrillers with a strong feminist skew. Tuhin is a screenwriter of several popular TV shows, the most noteworthy being Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai on Star Plus. Apart from his fiction novels and scripts, Tuhin is a keen political observer. His columns on Indian politics appear regularly in India’s leading dailies. Tuhin has a regular blog on ibnlive.com. He also appears frequently on news channels on discussions around politics and cricket.