Even after Pulwama, Congress failed to reclaim nationalism from the BJP. In fact, it ceded some more

Despite the legacy of Indira Gandhi, the Iron Lady who split Pakistan into two, the Congress failed to make a strong anti-terror statement and instead questioned the Balakot airstrike. This has only put patriotic Indians off.

 |  11-minute read |   01-04-2019
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The Congress is sliding into a deeper political quagmire of its own making. And there seems to be no respite.

At least, not in the near future.

After all, when a political party so grand leaves its legacy behind and cedes space on nationalism, it is difficult to gain ground.

Born as a nationalist movement for India's independence, Congress is today touted as 'anti-national' by its opponents. But that’s not the only irony. Sadly, the party that has ‘national’ in its name is now shying away from depicting its love for its nation and evading patriotism. And then, we have the Congress elite that seems rather flustered when touched on the topic of nationalism.

On the other hand, the BJP — an offshoot of the RSS which played no role in India’s freedom struggle and apparently sided with the British — finds nationalism to be its prerogative.

Perhaps people have forgotten that most of the nationalist songs now proudly sung by pseudo-patriots are associated with Congress in one form or another.

While it was Bankim Chandra who wrote Vande Mataram in 1870, it was actually sung by Rabindranath Tagore for the first time at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. And it was then that it gained popularity as a marching song. In October 1937 thereafter, the first two verses of the song were adopted as our national song by the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

'Jana Gana Mana' was written by Rabindranath Tagore and publicly sung on 27 December 1911 at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress — the Constituent Assembly later adopted it as India’s national anthem on January 24, 1950.

2_040119014707.jpgNationalist songs now proudly sung by the pseudo-patriots are in fact associated with the Indian National Congress. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Speaking of patriotic songs, we can’t forget the iconic song 'Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo' which was written by Kavi Pradeep. It was on 26 January 1963 that the song was first performed live by Lata Mangeshkar at the National Stadium in New Delhi on Republic Day, in the presence of the then-President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

But, over the years, much has changed within the Congress party — and a lot can be attributed to the BJP.

Turning Congress from a nationalist movement to an 'anti-national' political party was a cinch for the BJP. And it demonstrated so in the last ten years. Today, India’s youth links nationalism with patriotism — and the BJP. Congress, unfortunately, is widely seen as an anti-national party — and that’s largely due to the party’s leaders who have been extremely busy scoring own goals.

Recently, when the Indian Overseas Congress chairperson Sam Pitroda made headlines for bringing the Balakot airstrike into question, the Congress was thrown into a tizzy. The fact that Sam Pitroda was Rajiv Gandhi’s close aide — and has been Rahul Gandhi’s mentor — can’t be gainsaid. Neither the fact that, for the Congress, it’s nothing new.

After the Pulwama attack, Navjot Singh Sidhu was seen stressing Pakistan’s innocence. He was of the view that Pakistan as a country can’t be blamed for the actions of a few terrorists. It was Sidhu’s soft stand on Imran Khan that hurt the Congress beyond reconciliation. Alas, our long-cherished orator failed to understand that friendship or sportsmanship cannot and should not take precedence over your own nation!

1_040119013958.jpgThe Congress lost nationalism to the BJP thanks to its leaders who made all the wrong noises. (Source: Reuters)

It reminded us of Mani Shankar Aiyar who pleaded with Pakistan in the past to “remove Modi”. And back when Digvijay Singh questioned the Batla House encounter case and addressed Osama Bin Laden as 'Osama Ji' — all this besmirched the Congress’s reputation and made the present generation believe that Congress leaders are quick to endorse friendship with Pakistan and take up cudgels for terrorists.

And so, not unexpectedly, it lost nationalism to the BJP.

Losing the narrative to the BJP is now par for the Congress.

Earlier, it gave Hinduism to the BJP. Not to digress from the fact that the BJP metamorphosed Hinduism to Hindutva, but then, the truth is that a larger denomination of Hindus now associates this with the BJP.

The Congress, though, realised this — and tried to do damage control by embracing ‘soft’ Hindutva through temple visits. The Hindu religion, by philosophy, is secular. With its polytheism, it accepts diversity and so should every Hindu.

It was, however, the Congress party’s excessive Muslim appeasement that made Hindus drift away. Because secularism, when exercised in its truest form, treats all equally — there is no place for appeasement there.

However, the wider point remains — while Congress first gave Hinduism, and then nationalism to the BJP on a platter, it tried to reclaim Hinduism, but apparently forswore off patriotism and nationalism.

Making the wrong noises

The Pulwama attack made one thing pretty clear — barring Captain Amarinder Singh, Congress remained tight-lipped on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. While many questioned the success of the Balakot air-strike, none seemed concerned about the glaring intelligence failure that led to the Pulwama attack in the first place.

So much for politicking.

It was the time to question the procedural lapses and the failure of the intelligence establishment that led to the Pathankot, Uri, Nagrota and Pulwama attacks on Indian military installations.

How was 300 kg of explosives smuggled into Pulwama? How did it all reach a particular destination without any clue ostensibly reaching the army’s information network?

There was simmering anger amongst Indians over the government’s negligence — but what the Opposition lacked was the clear will to address that.

narendra-modi-mehboo_040119013312.jpgClearly, a dangerous liason — Why did the Opposition fail to question this alliance? (Source: PTI)

It took me back to the time when the ruling government formed an alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP was governed by Mehbooba Mufti — daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose third daughter Rubaiya was kidnapped in 1989 and released in exchange for the release of five militants. Let’s not forget that he was India’s Home Minister at that time.

By allying with the PDP — alleged widely to be a terrorist sympathiser party — the BJP revealed how much it really cared for nationalism and patriotism. If Congress wanted, it could have questioned this alliance. But the Opposition did what it has always done about matters related to patriotism — remain silent.

Just like the ruling government failed to protect our armed forces, the Opposition failed to question the government over issues that really matter to Indians.

Perhaps both the parties are too busy playing political football with terrorism, for they have failed to learn that terrorism isn’t a game.

Terrorism is a menace that can be curbed when the entire nation is one — when the entire nation stands united against it, not divided.

Maybe that’s something we need to learn from America. One of the most liberal democracies in the world, America was united against terrorism after the 9/11 attack. Both Republicans and Democrats kept their political differences aside and joined George Bush’s clarion call for the War on Terrorism — and Americans didn’t stop until Osama Bin Laden was killed.

This shows the strength they have as a nation. Their political parties may fight each other on several fronts — but when it comes to patriotism, there is no disagreement.

bush-and-obama_040119012814.jpgGeorge W Bush waged war on terror after 9/11 — and a united America didn't stop until Obama got Bin Laden. (Source: Reuters)

The Congress of the past

After the Pulwama attack, I went to Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate, to pay tribute to the martyrs. I had the impression that the place won’t be too crowded. But I was wrong. As amazed as I was to see thousands of people gathered there from across the country, I was surprised to see hundreds of people holding Indira Gandhi’s banners in their hands — shouting slogans, “Pakistan muradabad, Indira Gandhi zindabad”.

It was then that I realised how the nation still remembers the Iron Lady who split Pakistan into two.

How her nationalism, sacrifice and martyrdom haven’t gone to waste. However, while many in the country were recalling the bravest PM it has ever had, her own party consigned her to oblivion. Congress party workers were nowhere to be seen. They should have been active on the ground, paying tribute to the CRPF martyrs by organising a candle march. Maybe that’s too much to ask for from a party which purposely avoids talks of nationalism and anything to do with it.

To my mind, it was a golden opportunity for the Congress to reclaim nationalism. Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi should have held a joint press conference to remind the country of their grandmother’s role. They should have recalled how she actually went inside Pakistan and splintered it into two, changing the map of the world with the creation of Bangladesh.

But, while PM Modi was going around the country with his chest-thumping rhetoric of "Humne ghar main ghus kar maara," the lady who actually went inside Pakistan remains ignored —with her party maintaining a stoic silence.

collage_040119011501.jpgCongress' Legacy — Nehru was instrumental in the 1947 war against Pakistan, while Indira andhi literally split Pakistan in two in 1971. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Note that it’s been 35 years since Indira Gandhi is gone. The Congress should have evoked the valour that the lady had. The party owed it to her.

It should have reignited a fire that would have left Pakistan on tenterhooks.

After all, how difficult is it to reclaim the legacy that the party had? For it is the party of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who ordered a full counter-attack on Pakistan when it sent infiltrators to Kashmir. His words “Ham eent ka jawab pathar se denge” echoed from the Red Fort — it was under his leadership only that we won the Indo-Pak War in 1965.

It is the party of Indira Gandhi who had set the tone for India’s dominance over Pakistan with the Simla Agreement of July 2, 1972, which led to the creation of the LoC (line of control). It is the party of the first woman Prime Minister of the country, who was afraid of none — not even of death staring at her. She died a proud death, saving the country from Sikh separatists.

But the Congress couldn’t invoke her.

Congress couldn’t claim nationalism, despite being the party of Rajiv Gandhi — a PM who lost his life to terror.

The party didn’t even claim that the Mirage 2000 fighters that were used to carry out the Balakot air-strike were bought during Indira Gandhi’s time in the 1980s.

rajiv-gandhi-reuters_040119011357.jpgRajiv Gandhi lost his life to terrorism, but Congress somehow consistently fails to raise that point. (Source: IndiaToday.in)

So, instead of attacking Narendra Modi over the number of terrorists killed in the Balakot air-strike, Congress must invest some time in self-reflection and learn from its failure before the BJP does.

And Congress must not feel on edge when Modi tries to do an Indira Gandhi by portraying ‘strong leadership’ and reacting with force to the brutal attack on the CRPF jawans in Pulwama.

The Opposition should rather try to analyse where it is lacking. For the UPA government too had the same army and the same aircraft when terror struck Mumbai in 2008 — but the determination to act against terror was missing.

Wear your patriotism on your sleeve

While no political party is perfect, practising patriotism is not too much to ask. Every citizen wants a strong government and the assurance that the country is in safe hands. Rectifying its past mistakes after the Pulwama attack, Congress should have given the message of being a strong political party which is not afraid to counter terrorism.

The party leaders should have worn patriotism on their sleeve — just like Captain Amarinder Singh, who sought revenge from the terrorist outfits and Pakistan. But they didn’t — and that’s hardly reassuring.

It was the time to act tough on Pakistan — but the Congress fizzled out.

5c121ec9240000160658_040119020600.jpgCongress should take a strong stand on Pakistan and terrorism, just like Captain Amarinder Singh did. (Source: Reuters)

No matter how the BJP may portray Congress, behind all this farce lies the reality that Congress was the first — and the only nationalist — party of the nation. And it’s no crime to be a nationalist.

Congress should also be reminded that it’s good to be a party of Mahatma Gandhi who endorsed non-violence — but it’s great to remember that it was Mahatma Gandhi who gave his consent to Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to dispatch Indian troops to Kashmir to repel an attacking army in October 1947, following which the country fought its first war with Pakistan.

In Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice”.

Even the Bhagavad Gita says that it is righteous to commit violence for the protection of dharma.

So, dear Congress, please don’t feel shy about wearing your patriotism on your sleeve.

Don’t sit on the sidelines when thousands of your countrymen get killed because of terrorism.

Take a firm stand against terrorism — and reclaim nationalism.

Terrorism is violence. Don’t react to it with non-violence. Because if Mahatma Gandhi would have been alive today, he would have done the same.

Also read: The manufactured myth of Hindu terror – Part 2

Writer

Sadhavi Khosla Sadhavi Khosla @sadhavi

Entrepreneur, blogger and political analyst based in Gurgaon.

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