Saturday, November 07, 2015

Liberals take the Congress to the cleaners at a Congress-organised conference on Nehru

For two days at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, a Congress think-tank, the liberals -- this is a loose term because none of them are really liberals because they believe more in some sort of socialism and who who are opposed to economic liberalisation which they bad-mouth as neo-liberalism -- held the Congress responsible for the right-wing propelled rise in intolerance. They blamed the Congress in very harsh terms for practising "pragmatic communalism" and "reluctant secularism", for the Congress's timidity in distancing themselves from Muslims for fear of being as seen as pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. Many of them referred to the miserable record of 10-year UPA rule on rights and wages of the workers, in subscribing to the credo, "India should first become rich and then tackle environmental problems".The Congress leaders took the blows on the chin and grinned.

One of the speakers pointed out that when seven Muslims were killed in Maharashtra, the state Congress leaders were reluctant to visit the families of the victims because they feared that they might alienate the Hindus. He said that Congress must stop outsourcing "secularism" to civil society organisations. Another speaker said that civil society groups and liberals reach out to a limited number of people, and that only a political party can reach out to the masses. It was a call to Congress to go to the people with the message of secularism. It was even argued that in India the state was secular but the society was not secular, and therefore it is necessary to carry the ideology of secularism to the people. Secularise society is the new goal that the secular liberals have set for the Congress.

There was also the argument that inequalities are rising because of economic liberalisation, and that there cannot be an egalitarian society which depends on a capitalist economy. Bezwada Wilson, leader of the union for manual scavengers pointed out that "Swachch Bharat" and the e hundreds of crores of rupees spent on it would be futile if the issue of manual scavengers was not taken up. The Congress was blamed for not implementing the recommendations of the Sachar Committee report on the miserable economic state of the Muslims in the country.

One of the speakers pointed out that in the 1962 general election then Jana Sangh carried a vicious campaign against Nehru, showing him as a butcher who pushes cows to the slaughter-house, and of eating beef every evening at Hotel Ashok. He said that there in all these years, the Jana Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party did not change a bit in their hate campaigns.

The speakers did not spare Nehru either. They were dissatisfied with the way he clubbed all "Indic religions" under the Hindu Code Bill, and how he did not rigorously keep out religion out of the public sphere. The Congress was also blamed for making laws banning cow-slaughter in the Congress-run states. The party was blamed for the Shah Bano bungle, for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, for the communal riots of 1992.

The more interesting part was Sandeep Dikshit, former MP, asked the most uncomfortable question. He pointed out that the stringent measures of the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Act (FCRA), which the present BJP government has used to close down the operations of Greenpeace, was passed by UPA, and he wanted to know whether it was a mistake or not. Former minister Salman Khurshid refused to answer the question saying that the question should be addressed to former finance minister P.CHidambaram during lunch-time. Dikshir shot back saying that what Khurshid said was in itself a clear indication of the answer. Another gentleman, again a Congressman, wanted to know whether the Congress party was not succumbing to pressures of money power, muscle power and nepotism.

Rahul Gandhi who spoke at the end accepted the criticisms and promised to work with the liberals.

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