Former PM Manmohan Singh is unusually vocal after Congress lost power in 2014 and PM Narendra Modi assumed office. The former PM, who was rather well known for his ‘lack of statements’ is often found making highly intellectual, grandiose, philosophical statements that involve a lot of fear-mongering, doom predictions and pontifications. Most of his speeches are centred around ideas like ‘secularism is in danger’, ‘democracy is in danger’ and ‘the economy is in danger’. The same Manmohan Singh whose secularism is defined by his famous remark of minorities having the first claim on a country’s resources.
Recently, speaking at a lecture event, the former PM stated that the Indian Army must remain ‘uncontaminated’ from a sectarian appeal. He also stated that even the judiciary of the country should not lose sight of its primary duty of protecting the secular spirit of the constitution.
As usual, Manmohan Singh, considered a Sonia Gandhi loyalist through and through, serves the dual purpose in the statement. He casts an allusion that the Army and the judiciary are under threat of becoming sectarian, communal. Further, he asserts the claim that he, as a former PM and senior Congress leader, is warning against the possible threats ‘if’ the institutions like the army and the judiciary become sectarian.
But what the former prime minister says now, and what he did when he was in power are diametrically opposite. While in power at the centre, the UPA government where Manmohan Singh was the PM, had brought in the Sachar committee to make an assessment of socio-economic conditions of Muslims in the government, bureaucracy and well, in the army.
Crucial assembly elections were close and the party that draws its legacy from people who ensured India’s partition on religious grounds had played its ‘secularism’ card once again. Sadly, the Congress version of secularism means projecting the ‘Muslim’ community as a victim of socio-economic injustice. The Manmohan Singh led government was already trying its level best to exploit the ‘Muslim’ peg to reap political benefits. The HRD ministry had tried its best to make the Aligarh Muslim University as a strictly Muslim university by bringing in 50% reservation for Muslims. The court struck it down. The Sachar committee was just another attempt to create the ‘secular’ smokescreen that Muslim in India are marginalised, under-represented, backward while the majority Hindus are grabbing their share of everything. The army, which had remained well beyond the confines of religious politics, was to be the next target.
After strong opposition from the RSS, BJP and media outrage over the overtly malicious attempt to create a sectarian divide in the armed forces, the UPA government saw that its trick is not working and resorted to damage control mode. Soon, separate clarifications were issued from the Sachar committee itself, the PMO and Congress party. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi ‘clarified’ to the media that the letter sent by the committee to the army is not an attempt to divide but a mere fact-finding exercise. What is worse is that the idea behind the Muslim headcount and seeking ‘representation’ was reportedly drawn from a book named ‘Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India’ by an MIT professor named Omar Khalidi. In the book, Khalidi had reportedly advocated the creation of ‘Muslim compact zones’ in states like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar by ‘reorganisation’ of districts. Some secularism indeed.
Recently, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had created a controversy by demanding to know how many Muslims have been recruited by the Indian security forces. The fact that a Congress leader openly supported the demand should be no surprise at all. Because what Owaisi declares openly, Congress has been doing it subtly over the years, under a fancy garb of secularism. In the lust for power, Congress had exploited all possible faultlines in the Indian society, be it caste, region and religion.
The central idea behind these statements and Congress’ policies over the years is the same . A fake narrative building to exploit faultlines, create fear and then appear like the white knight who will save India from the imaginary demons. Congress had applied the same narrative building game to create the smokescreen called the ‘Hindu Terror’. When in power they attempted to create another narrative of Muslims being the victims, which they are only further extending now with the allusions of ‘secularism’ being under threat.
Manmohan Singh can use his intellectual prowess to weave a narrative of brilliant words with smart undertones. But he cannot stop the average Indian from noticing that his proclamations of danger to India’s social, democratic and economical fabric have been as flimsy as his own tenure as the PM of India where the real power laid elsewhere, that Congress’ slogans of secularism are as hollow as the promises of its leadership over the years.