Short of being abducted by extraterrestrials to some faraway planet, come May 16, Narendra Modi will be getting ready to move into 7, Race Course Road, while Rahul Gandhi and the Congress will be getting ready to move onto the opposition benches. Much has been spoken and written about what kind of prime minister Narendra Modi will make. Unfortunately, very little has been written or spoken about what kind of opposition leader Rahul will make. Therefore, it may not be a bad idea to address the latter.
To begin with, the opposition benches will be a fine place for Rahul and his party to contemplate their follies and do some serious chintan. Even a former Congress supporter like me — is that too mild a labelling? — feels disgusted by the last five years of Congress rule. Every conceivable sin a ruling party could commit seems to have been notched up by the Indian National Congress. To compound matters, a profound arrogance accompanied the misrule.
A spell out of office would be good for the soul of the party, purge it of all the muck it has collected. The first thing, then, the Congress needs is a good and proper bath.
Corruption and the party became synonymous — a reality the entire nation could see except Congressmen. Today in their heart they know that defeat at this election is both justified and useful.
When Rahul is sitting on the opposition benches, one, just one, question should haunt him: How to regain the public goodwill the party has precipitously lost. Some cronies could tell Rahul the question will sort itself as time goes by. Rahul should sack such cronies. It is these gentlemen who have brought his party to this sorry state.
Editors, me included, are wont to give gratuitous advice. What else would we do if this small vanity trip is taken away from us? It is in this spirit that I sketch out a policy plan for Rahul to regain the lost ground. My formula does not involve waiting for Modi to stumble or for LK Advani to stab him in the front. The tactic is unreliable. Supposing, Narendrabhai does not stumble or Lalji decides not to do the good deed!
Instead, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress must become the 'model' opposition. Winston Churchill's son Randolph said, "The duty of the opposition is to oppose". If Rahul follows Randolph's dictum he and the Congress could spend a lot more than five years in opposition. The Indian people are fed up with negative and destructive politics. Beginning May 14, Rahul could usher in something different: A model opposition party.
For free, I offer Rahul a four-point formula to achieve the aforementioned result.
First, he and the Congress must ensure not a single hour of parliamentary time is lost because of disturbances. The party must never be held responsible for an "adjournment". Under no circumstances should any Congress MP enter the Well of the House. If the party feels strongly on any issue, it should express displeasure in debate. The strongest form of protest available should be the "walk out".
Second, it must become a "constructive" opposition. The party must tear up the opportunistic BJP book in this regard. On any issue the party feels is in the national interest, it must offer full and whole-hearted support. And do it loudly. Take FDI in multi-brand retail. Hardly a secret that Modi as prime minister will find a way to introduce it. The Congress must remind the BJP of its double talk on the policy, but along with pouring scorn, it should endorse the measure. Rahul needs to become the symbol of an opposition which has junked tit-for-tat politics.
Third, it must defend tenaciously two of its fundamental principles: Secular India and Inclusive India. Both are likely casualties under the Modi raj. Given his own and the Parivar's ideological bent, I am not being just alarmist or pseudo-secular. These are two of Congress's core values. They must be safeguarded with blood, if required.
Fourth, 2014 has seen a sharp decline in the language of politics. Discourse has been replaced by abuse. I am afraid the Congress cannot claim to have stayed away from the low conversation. Whatever other parties do to challenge the vulgarity, the Congress must set a standard and restore some semblance of civility to national discourse.
Does my "model' sound like boy-scout idealism? Fine on paper but impractical in the partisan India we live in? Even as someone whose stock-in trade is cynicism, I say the country deserves better. Besides, the Congress could do with a little idealism. It is better than the politics of negativism suffocating the republic.
This was first published in the Times of India
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"the BJP did its utmost to make a mockery of secularism blah blah"
"secularism" means keeping government away from religion, but Indian secularism is such that the govt, collects all proceeds from hindu temples but not for christian or muslim places of worship. This is not secularism, so let's cut the bullsh*t that India practices secularism like the US, because it does not. Indian "secularism" is a pustulent sore on the face of Indian democracy -- Indian law must treat all religions on equal footing by keeping out of religion altogether, in order for India to be called secularism.
It is truly precious when jihad supporting islamist aholes try to preach to the rest of us about supporting Indian "secularism". Again we can that the piece of sh*t Nehru for how things have come to pass -- hope that rotten bas**** Nehru is roasting in hell for what he has done to India.
>> Rejection of the Congress brand of politics is rejection of pseudo-secularism...
Instead of demanding that the government be truly secular, the BJP did its utmost to make a mockery of secularism by inventing pejorative phrases like "pseudo-secularism", "vote-bank politics" and "minority appeasement". The fact is that destroying secularism has always been the goal of the RSS/BJP acolytes. Notice how Modi could not even define 'secularism'. He called it "India first" policy. "India first" policy is patriotism, not secularism. And yet the Moditards applauded his pseudo-definition!
>> India will never go the way of Pakistan.
Empty words in a serious discussion are jarring. You seem to specialize in platitudes!
"giving up on it (secularism) would be like giving in to the worst forces in the country and taking the course that Pakistan took."
1. Nobody has given up on secularism. Rejection of the Congress brand of politics is rejection of pseudo-secularism, of a state which discriminates on the basis of religion and in which minorities' insecuties are exploited for harvesting electoral dividends.. The culture of India, the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, as my friend Anwaar likes to call it , is suffused by the spirit of secularism.
2. India will never go the way of Pakistan - elimination of minorities, scant respect for democracy, a rogue armed forces, a theocracy. There is no equivalence with Pakistan. The forces active in Pakistan are regressive and atavistic in nature. In India, such forces are absent. Which explains why India has steadfastly clung to democracy but for a brief period in 1975-77 when Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution after an adverse decision of the Allahabad High Court.
>> secularism must be defined very precisely.
Agreed! In fact a lot needs to be done differently. But giving up on it would be like giving in to the worst forces in the country and taking the course that Pakistan took.
Anwaar ... "but secularism alone has the force of constitutional status."
True but then that secularism must be defined very precisely (and as accepted by the secular world) "as a strict separation of church and state". We cannot be namby-pamby about it and say of but we are Indians, special and hence have a special definition of Secularism. Once defined actions whether by governments claiming the secular tag or people claiming this tag should push towards this ideal.
Today what we have is majority communalism and minority (read muslim) communalism.
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