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RSS hosts first iftar under Modi sarkar. Why won't foreign embassies?

Sharad Gupta
Sharad GuptaJun 27, 2016 | 16:26

RSS hosts first iftar under Modi sarkar. Why won't foreign embassies?

History is being created by both the Congress and the RSS. The Congress is not hosting iftar this year, while the RSS is organising one, a first in its 90-year history.

Sensing the change in the mood of the corridors of power, a number of foreign missions who had given the religio-political event a pass last year, are organising iftar on a grand scale this year.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has never organised iftar.

Breaking the fast (roza) after evening prayers (namaz) during Ramzan is known as iftar. Of late, political parties have converted it into an event. They organise lavish parties for breaking the fast - basically to demonstrate that they enjoy goodwill among the Muslims.

Leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mamata Banerjee organise it at least once every Ramzan.

Some do it more than once - first in Delhi, then in their state capital and then again in their constituency. During Mulayam's tenure as defence minister, the iftar hosted by him used to be attended by Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Prada besides a good smattering of other film actors, politicians, socialites, power brokers and media personnel.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) never organised iftars. Though its Muslim leaders, especially Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, did every year, except the last. The exception was apparently in deference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who strode to power post the 2014 elections and made no bones about not attending iftar celebrations.

Modi has never believed in such symbolism and had refused to even put wear a skull cap offered by some Muslim priests in Ahmedabad a couple of years ago.

Taking a cue, prominent foreign missions too did not host the iftar last year. The US embassy used to have a grand iftar party at The Ashoka, a five-star, every year. The British embassy too used to host a gala party by inviting the who's who of Delhi. They did it in 2014, but not last year.

"We were not aware of the government's mood in 2014. When we found no body from the government or ruling party hosted iftar, we too gave it a miss last year. Instead we organised an Eid party", said a US embassy officer.

But, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), known for its rabid provocations on Hindutva, sprang a surprise this year by announcing an iftar under the aegis of its affiliate body Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) in Delhi on July 2.

Heads of more than 140 foreign missions have been invited to the party. RSS being the parent organisation of the BJP, a large number of BJP leaders including Cabinet ministers are expected to be in attendance at the feast.

The Manch is headed by RSS joint general secretary Indresh, who is known to be cultivating goodwill among the Muslims. He claims to have some followers even in Kashmir Valley. He was however, accused by the NIA of financing Swami Aseemanand, the main accused in Malegaon and Samjhauta bomb explosions.

Sources in the RSS claim that the decision was not an attempt to mend fences with the Muslims, but one at an image makeover. "It doesn't mean that the RSS is undergoing an ideological shift. We always respected Muslims who have embraced Hindutva as a way of life, who believed that they are native Hindus and their forefathers adopted Islam under coercion", said an RSS leader.

However, with the RSS' decision, rules of the game seemed to change overnight. The US embassy too hosted an iftar party on June 22, inviting some 80 guests. However, the attendance was larger.

The Pakistan embassy too hosted an iftar on Saturday as did a number of embassies of African and Middle Eastern countries during the past fortnight.

But, the Congress seems to be singing a different tune this year. Iftar used to be a constant fixture in the Congress' itinerary, whether in power or out of it, at the Centre and in the states. However, this year it has decided not to host the party.

Senior Congress leaders claim the decision was taken to dilute their hardcore pro-Muslim image.

"We don't want to be labelled only for our pro-Muslim credentials. We will continue to be strictly secular, but don't wish to wear it in our sleeves since that antagonises other sections of the society", said an AICC general secretary.

This dilly-dallying has actually characterised Congress' attitude during past few decades.

Sometimes it tries to appease one community or a section of the society and then, as a counter, tries to placate the another.

We have seen that happening during Indira Gandhi regime - in the recent Punjab and Kashmir policies. Rajiv Gandhi too enacted a law to overturn the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case. When his government received flak for being blatantly pro-Muslim, he got the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya unlocked and even laid the foundation for the temple in the Babri Masjid complex.

Instead of pleasing the two communities, the Congress earned their wrath. It has not regained power in UP since 1989.

It's time for the politicians to learn from their mistakes. Who will know it better than BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani, who had to apologise for paying obeisance and offering glowing tributes to Mohammad Ali Jinnah at his mausoleum in Karachi in 2005? Leading the pack of hounds then were the same RSS leaders who are hosting an iftar now.

Last updated: June 27, 2016 | 16:45
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