Indian National Congress (INC), “grand old party of India”, suffered a massive defeat in the just-held Assembly elections, particularly in the crucial Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand. Leave aside Punjab where the Akali-BJP coalition government was destined to lose because of anti-incumbency. The INC could win Punjab because of local factors, and not because it was really popular. It was not the victory of the INC that impressed the nation; it was the humiliating defeat of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) which relieved the worried Indian nation. For, its victory in the sensitive border State of Punjab would have unsettled everything given its “perverted ideology” and the nature of its support-base.
The INC think-tanks should have sit up to examine the causes responsible for the spectacular victories of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in UP (BJP+325 seats) and Uttrakhand (56 seats), re-formation of BJP-led coalition government in Goa and formation of its government in Manipur for the first time. They should have devised a new strategy calculated to dispel the widely-held belief across the nation that it had lost its moorings and way and that it considered the “minorities” the main stakeholder in the Indian polity and economy and took the “majority community” for a ride. A review was all the more imperative considering the fact that India had virtually INC-free. Karnataka and Punjab are the only two major States under its rule.
And the by-elections to the Srinagar (April 9) and Anantnag (April 12) Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir came as a God-sent opportunity for the INC leadership to undo the past wrongs by promoting politics based on democratic and economic issues and issues of governance and national import. But it has squandered the opportunity by reiterating that it would not deviate from the path it treaded during the 10-year-long UPA “misrule”.
A hint to this effect had already been given by almost all the INC leaders, including AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who spoke on March 11 (the day election results were declared) and even thereafter. Still, there were some who believed that the INC would learn from its past mistakes and contest the by-elections in Kashmir on democratic and people-centric planks. It would avoid, some believed, raising divisive and communal issues and denounce fissiparous activities during the election campaign to arouse anti-India passions and outrage the nationalist constituencies in Jammu and Ladakh. (These are the State’s two other regions, which occupy over 88 per cent of its land area and house over 50 per cent of its population, was the view of some (at least in Jammu), once its stronghold and now overwhelmingly with the BJP.
The INC leadership in Delhi and Srinagar committed two grave wrongs. One, it entered into pre-poll alliance with the National Conference (NC), which had been openly supporting the Hurriyat since December 6, 2016, and asking its cadres to join the ongoing “Azaadi” movement in Kashmir so that the “Kashmiri nation wins freedom from India”. (As per the seat-sharing formula, NC president Farooq Abdullah is contesting from the Srinagar constituency and JKPCC chief GA Mir from the Anantnag constituency.) The NC leadership not only had been telling Hurriyat day-in and day-out that “it was not against them but with them”, but also invoking “Kashmiriyat” and “Allah” to arouse popular passions in the Valley in its desperate bid to regain the political space it over the years lost to its arch-political rival – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), founded only in 1999.
It needs to be underlined that both NC president Farooq Abdullah and working president and his son Omar Abdullah have unleashed a no-holds-barred propaganda blitz aimed at creating fear-psychosis among Kashmiri Muslims. They have been telling them that the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as UP Chief Minister was a major step towards the establishment of “Hindu Rashtra” and the RSS-BJP combine has been exploiting their alliance with the PDP to change the Muslim-majority character of Kashmir and erode its “distinct identity”.
“We hope you people (Kashmiri Muslims) will never elect those who have chosen Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh who has been for ‘Gharwapsi’, ‘Love Jihad’, taking out Muslim woman from graves and raping them and putting idols in mosques. I am sure you will only vote for NC-Congress candidates to take the state out of morass and safeguard your future,” Omar Abdullah, for example, said on March 22 at Anantnag.
In other words, the INC befriended the NC which had become for all practical purposes a B-team of pro-Pakistan and rabidly anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-Buddhist Hurriyat Conference.
The other blunder that the INC committed was its open support to “Mujahids” (freedom fighters) and its concerted move to convince the Kashmiri Muslims that it was a party of “Mujahids” and it stitched an alliance with “Mujahids” (in this case Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah). Not just this. The INC also gave the Kashmiri Muslims to understand that it considered Jammu & Kashmir a disputed territory and also considered Pakistan and the Hurriyat stakeholders in the State.
It would be appropriate to quote verbatim what Tariq Hamid Karra said on March 18 at Srinagar and on March 22 at Anantnag in the presence of all senior NC and Congress leaders, including AICC general secretary and in-charge of INC in Jammu & Kashmir Ambika Soni. On March 18, Tariq Hamid Karra, who quit the PDP and the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat only recently and was admitted to the INC by AICC president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, said: “The Congress will form a committee to talk to Pakistan and Hurriyat. The financial packages won’t yield any result but there is the need for political package to resolve the Kashmir issue”. Each and every word that he uttered was self-explanatory and hence, no further elucidation.
And on March 22, Tariq Hamid Karra, inter-alia, said: “It is a religious obligation on me to defeat the forces (in this case RSS and BJP) who have become a challenge to my Islamic identity and Kashmiriyat. Ambika Soni is fighting for the rights of minorities and is therefore a ‘Mujahid’, and so is Omar Abdullah and Ghulam Ahmad Mir”. He also asked the INC and NC workers to raise slogan “BJP-yich alam chai yiman athan manz, timan kari khakh parwardigar”. Those (read Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her associates) carrying BJPs’ command in their hands will be destroyed by God”.
That no INC leader, not even AICC general secretary Ambika Soni and former JKPCC chief and Union Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz, contested what Tariq Hamid Karra said speaks for itself. The fact of the matter is that while Saif-ud-Din Soz offered his unstinted support to the Hurriyat, Ambika Soni urged all to “ensure defeat of communal forces”.
All this only serves to suggest that the INC is in a self-destruct mode. But this should not alarm us. What is worrisome is the fact that it has gone completely perverted. It has adopted a line which instead of bridging the gulf between Kashmiri Muslims and New Delhi would further widen the already rather wide gulf – gulf created by Kashmiri leaders of all hues, without any exception.