Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi has been planning to reach out to different sections of the society. In an effort to boost his image, Rahul Gandhi had met some Muslim intellectuals and activists at his residence today.
MS Farooqui, Amir Mohammad, Irfan Habib, Syeda Hameed, Ilyas Malik, Rakhshanda Jalil, Junaid Rehman, Farah Naqvi were among those who met the Rahul Gandhi at his residence. Reportedly, people who met Rahul Gandhi have given ‘feedback’ on various issues.
In a meeting with 12 Muslim intellectuals, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was advised not to talk about Muslim community in particular and rather speak on issues like poverty and education on a whole
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) July 11, 2018
Interestingly, the leaders of the so-called Muslim intellectual class conveyed their displeasure over the Congress Party’s recent narrative of being soft to Hindus. They have spoken to Rahul Gandhi that how the community was feeling threatened due to the party adopting ‘Soft-Hindutva’ approach in the recent elections.
The Muslim intellectuals have advised Rahul Gandhi to not talk about the Muslim community in particular in public. According to them, it will give others an opportunity to polarise him as a leader. They insisted that Rahul Gandhi should rather talk about poverty and education.
During the meeting, the intellectuals have advised Rahul Gandhi to do a ” self-introspection of the Congress party”. According to them, the Congress party has changed a lot in recent times. Irfan Habib, a historian said, “He was urged to think about how Congress worked in the era of the 1970s when it talked about inclusiveness and Sajha Virasat”.
In the meeting, Rahul Gandhi has assured the leaders of the community that the party would not comprise its “core ideology”. It is yet to be seen whether Congress will fall back on its old tactics of minority appeasement to gain lost ground during the next general elections.
Speaking to ANI, Salman Khurshid said, “a number of lawyers, historians and university intellectuals today met Rahul Gandhi and discussed public policy with him. They gave their feedback to the leader of Opposition on the areas they are working in. Hope more such interactions will take place in future”.
The outreach programme of Congress has reportedly started on the lines of BJP’s Sampark for Samarthan initiative to mark the successful completion of four years of the Narendra Modi government. Under the Sampark for Samarthan campaign, about 4,000 BJP functionaries, including chief ministers, union ministers and panchayat members across the country, will contact 100,000 eminent personalities.
In the interaction, Gandhi spoke about the future strategy of the Congress and his party’s greater acceptability among regional parties, including past adversaries such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The meeting came in the backdrop of the Congress party’s efforts to carve out a wider “secular and democratic alliance”.
According to Habib, Rahul Gandhi has acknowledged the “internal shortcomings” in the Congress party and promised that the corrective measures were being taken. He said, according to Rahul Gandhi, one of the weaknesses of the party was that it had closed it’s on its own leaders.
Habib said that Rahul Gandhi is of the view that the Congress is now more accommodative towards the like-minded parties. He is now more open to working with leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, MK Stalin, Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders of the like-minded parties. Gandhi reportedly said. “Earlier, these parties were not open to us. Now, we will formulate a common strategy and come together”.
The Congress party has decided to widen its outreach programme in light of the next year’s general elections. They have decided to engage with a wider section of the society as per the directions of Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Ashok Gehlot. The Congress party has identified “potential influencers”, those who will be met by Rahul Gandhi in the next few months.
It is apparent now, that Congress is now stuck in a Catch-22 situation. While Rahul Gandhi declared himself as a ‘janeu dhari Hindu’ in a bid to appease the Hindu electorate which has been disenchanted with Congress for a while owing to its “Hindu Pakistan” and “Saffron Terror” sort of remarks, the Muslim community which has been Congress’ core votebank, considering how Congress has appeased the minority for decades, seems disgruntled at this pseudo-Hindutva stand.