"What appears is not and what does not, is." This ancient saying aptly describes the Indian political scenario. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) claims to be secular but just peel a few layers and you will find that it is steeped deep in communalism. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), on the other hand, which is accused of communalism, does all that it can to get rid of this label and walk that extra mile. No doubt scams, price rises, all pervading corruption, negative industrial growth (from +10% to -2.5%) and unemployment played a major role, but above all it was the communal attitude of the party and its overt tilt towards the Muslim minority that derailed the UPA.
India in general and Hindus in particular are largely secular, yet in this election they voted out all those parties who espoused secularism. People did not buy into repeated fear psychosis of the communal bogey. Perhaps, the Congress did not expect the Hindu majority to join together as one voice since they have always been divided on linguistic and caste-based lines.
Soon after assuming the Prime Minister's Office, Dr. Manmohan Singh openly declared that minorities had the first right on India's resources, driving a dagger through the hearts of Hindus, who had stood by him. Not once, during his entire tenure did the Prime Minister even acknowledge the magnanimity of the majority community. While many complained that they were not treated with dignity, sops were doled out for minorities to the tune of thousands of crores.
Principals were asked to identify minority students and open bank accounts through which scholarships were given. In some states ruled by UPA allies, a child gets INR 30,000 just for being from the minority community. This created a wedge in the classroom psyche and caused heartburn to other poor students from the majority. However, no such facilities were extended to the Hindu minority in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East. Poverty and illiteracy have no religion - every religion has poor people. Giving benefits based on religion is unconstitutional and such practices by political parties angered people. 'The Majority Report' a thorough research document written by two retired IPS officers (Shri Ram Kumar Ohri and Shri Jai Prakash Sharma) makes an interesting read on the subject.
Many decisions by the UPA proved destructive for institutions that are the foundations for the country's democracy. Pranab Mukherjee who was the rightful choice for the post of PM was overlooked. PJ Thomas was appointed as Chief Vigilance Commissioner in spite of his bad record. The ruling alliance showed little respect towards the Supreme Court. The government machinery through agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate was made a tool for vindictive politics. The first family was quick to take credit at every possible opportunity but ended up denigrating the Office of the Prime Minister, which was shocking for the population. There are a lot of honest and well-intentioned people in the Congress but they felt suffocated, sad and disheartened at the state of affairs, as everything was controlled by a small coterie of people.
The proposed Communal Violence Bill presumed that the majority community was always the culprit and its members could be arrested with a non-bailable warrant. UPA came up with several such discriminatory laws. The government also directed public sector banks to be liberal while sanctioning and writing off loans to religious minorities.
The excesses in corruption under UPA kept becoming more and more embarrassing to explain and difficult to hide. Never before have so many files gone missing from important offices. It seems fire had a great affinity for the files of Congress government - the last fire accident happened in its last days while leaving office.
The UPA also showed utter disregard for Indian ethos. India, where the cow has been considered sacred since time immemorial, silently became the number one exporter of beef. This notorious development came as a big jolt. Subsidies were liberally given to beef exporters while farmers were committing suicide.
While minority religious leaders could be seen often with UPA leaders, Hindu saints were disregarded, if not hounded. Moreover, the minorities had full freedom to run their places of worship, but all major Hindu temples were controlled by the government.
The nation witnessed such discrimination under the garb of secularism. There were more communal clashes in states ruled by the secular UPA and its allies. People were fed up of leaders who read out scripted speeches containing the same old rhetoric without delivering on any promises. Rahul Gandhi barely attended the parliament and was never available during any national crisis. In sharp contrast, the conviction and confidence with which Narendra Modi spoke about development was just the change people were looking for. He proudly proclaimed his faith and expressed his commitment to the entire nation. While Congress tried its best to portray him as the perpetrator of the 2002 Gujarat riots, it became clear 10 years later that the Congress head of Godhra was convicted for the train carnage triggering the violent episode.
Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi feature prominently on Congress hoardings all over the country, but two of his most important ideas - prohibition and banning cow slaughter, have been implemented only in Gujarat under Modi's leadership. With a solid record in good governance, what further endeared him to the masses was that he spoke from the heart and thus became the natural choice for the people. Coming from a very poor background where his mother was a domestic help, his rise to the highest office of the world's largest democracy has instilled hope in the poor people of the country.
In Indian society, one often finds a lot of adulation for religious leaders, cricketers and film stars. But the fawning around the Gandhi family in Congress goes way beyond. It is not that Congress has not done any good at all - they took some very progressive initiatives but the volume of wrongdoings washed it all away. It is time for the grand old party to rethink its strategy, get rid of sycophancy and be true to democracy.
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