In saying this, I don’t mean we’re a nation of Congress voters, though that also is not inaccurate. Other than in one election, 1977, Indians have always voted for the Congress more than for any other party.
What I mean is that Indian values are best, and I would even
say, only represented by the Congress. These values are religious
accommodation, comfort with racial and linguistic diversity, acceptance of
caste in politics, comfort in dynasty and a preference for compromise over
principle. This flexibility has kept India democratic, and it is a
Congress trait. The party also represents the middle-class consensus which
views India as a great
civilizing force, and seeks a nurturing of India’s cultural aesthetic.
In Pakistan’s The
Express Tribune, Khaled Ahmed wrote on 8 April: “The Indian Constitution
informs the attitude of the Indian middle class, which is tolerant of
secularism.” This is true, and as an idea it is owned by the Congress.
Unlike the Tories and Labour in the UK or Republicans and Democrats in the US, we don’t
have division by ideology in Hindu middle-class society.
Woman power: BSP chief Mayawati is a terrific orator. Keshav Singh/Hindustan Times
Writer Arvind Rajagopal made this point by asking who, if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the Hindu right, was the Hindu left? There’s no such thing, of course.
The BJP thinks it is an ideological party but it doesn’t
have any real ideology. The party’s three ideological thrusts are all negative:
Muslims shouldn’t keep their family law, Muslims shouldn’t keep Ram
Janmabhoomi, Muslims shouldn’t keep separate status through Article 370 in Kashmir.
Ideology is something you stand for, not against. The CPM is
an ideological party. The BJP is a party of resentful Hindus (symbolized by the
face of a permanently sour Arun Jaitley).
We can observe a demonstration of this in the collapse of
the Ayodhya movement. Its supporters were not in favour of the temple, but
against the usurping mosque. Once the mosque disappeared, so did the movement
of which we now hear little. This flaw is in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(RSS) gene and was passed on.
Muslim concession always deflates the BJP, and this explains
the party’s decline, which will continue. The middle-class Hindu’s bigotry
against the Muslim is reactive. His hatred is not ideological or dogmatic, such
as the Muslim’s for the Jew. His bigotry responds to offences against him real
and imagined—Somnath temple or Partition.
Because the bigotry is reactive and not ideological, the
Congress has been able to accommodate it where required almost as efficiently
as the BJP.
An irreligious Congress such as Jawaharlal Nehru’s does not
put off Hindus, but it thinks it cannot afford to take the chance. This
opportunism also aligns the Congress morally with Indians.
Many hate Gujarat chief
minister Narendra Modi now but historically, the Congress has never been above
using a little slaughter to appease Hindus, like in Ahmedabad in 1969 under
Hitendrabhai Desai. During the 1992-93 riots, when Surat
burned, Gujarat was ruled not by the BJP but
by Chimanbhai Patel. When Delhi’s
Hindus turned against Sikhs in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi looked away.
It is only under Sonia Gandhi that the party has again
become the standard-bearer for Ashokan secularism. She will go down in history
as the finest Congress leader along with Nehru.
Pakistan’s Ahmed separates Congress voters from BJP voters in this fashion: “Many factors are common between the city-dwelling middle classes of India and Pakistan. The middle class lives in the city and votes rightwing. The Bharatiya Janata Party gets its vote in the city; the Congress party gets it from the rural areas.”
This is how many people see it. There are two problems with this formulation. The first is that the Congress, in its various forms, is currently dominant in four out of six metros. The BJP has only Bangalore.
Secondly, the BJP’s appeal for its voters lies in caste
rather than ideology. For example, it is a Lingayat party in Karnataka. Its
problems there have come because the RSS does not accept this fact and denies
Lingayat champion B.S. Yeddyurappa his due. Ahmed’s observation that the middle
class aligns with the BJP is valid only so far as middle class can be conflated
with upper castes, seen as BJP voters. Middle-class expansion is today
happening in India
because of the rapid entry of lower castes. This is actually lethal for the BJP
and good for the Congress. Unlike in Pakistan,
middle-class expansion will make it more moderate.
There is a reason why the Congress continually attracts
young and urbane talent, but the BJP doesn’t. The reason is the alignment of
the Congress with the broad Indian sentiment, which makes it naturally
attractive and competitive. The open-minded BJP leader like Manohar Parrikar
senses this and must often distance himself from the RSS position. In the
Congress, Nitin Gadkari would have made even district president with
I predict the decline of the BJP and the fragmentation of
its state units into regional parties based on caste. This breaking away will
paradoxically make these units more acceptable in coalitions and more coherent.
The signs are visible in Rajasthan and Karnataka, where Hindutva has become
irrelevant. In Gujarat, the party will
collapse after the autocrat exits.
The Congress under the Gandhis, and later the Vadra-Gandhis, will remain our one great national party.
I nailed my colours to the mast in my column of 17 May 2009,
but it is appropriate in a piece such as this that I again disclose my
I am a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) voter. I was persuaded by a
newspaper article. In 1996, writer Meenal Baghel reported a BSP rally in Uttar
Pradesh forTheIndian Express. She described rain, a large crowd, wet, and the
bamboo barricades it was straining.
Mayawati mounted the stage and said: “Chamari hoon, kunwari
hoon, tumhari hoon” (I’m low-caste, single, yours). What a terrific line. I was
The BSP is corrupt, true. But it has not butchered Sikhs or
set Muslim children on fire. It has more legitimate grievance with India than any
other group (Gandhi said of B.R. Ambedkar: “That he does not break our heads is
an act of self-restraint on his part”). But it doesn’t extract justice through
collective punishment. It is pragmatic with its social tormentors, a quality I
It doesn’t share the Hindu middle-class fantasy that India will become a world power tomorrow, though most of us are illiterate and hungry and will remain so in our generation, and the next and the next.
I have sometimes wondered if I do right in voting BSP, for I
am greatly attracted to Manmohan Singh, and because I have lived in states
where BSP candidates usually forfeit their deposits.
But I have never felt guilt.
Why the Congress represents Indian values best
Mint | Aakar Patel 19 May 2012