Series: 3 Letters to 3 Leaders

NEW DELHI: Dear Soniaji,

You will not know me but I was well known to your mother-in-law and to Nehruji as well. I am an old freedom fighter who has been living in Meerut, long forgotten of course by the party I once so admired. I have for long observed the decay of the Congress party, from a ruling force in Uttar Pradesh to a marginalised organisation and now struggling to survive.

I do not think this letter will make any difference but before I leave this earth I am duty bound to speak, from the political grave as it were. To make this missive a little more legitimate let me say that I lost a young nephew in one of the communal riots in Meerut, but that has not embittered or communalised our family, just made us more secular and determined to fight for the vision of India that Gandhiji and Nehruji and all the others fought for. I am not a Muslim but I am a secular person who believes we are all one, as did the Congress once upon a time.

From being the only party to rule Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has been reduced to a party that will probably never rule the state again. You have lost the Brahmins, the Dalits and the Muslims in quick succession and thereby lost your entire vote bank. Muslims in particular are totally disenchanted with your party and the reasons are many. I will try and list a few here:

1. From a fighting force the Congress in UP particularly was purged of good and sound leaders, and reduced to a sycophantic force under late Indira Gandhi. It became a servile organisation, losing its independence, its ability to discuss and introspect with loyalty to you and your family becoming the overriding factor. The result is no one tells you anything, and you think you are doing extremely well. I remember in the last state elections, several good people in this part were ignored and sidelined to make way for Rahulji’s supporters. They all lost as everyone here knew they would, but no one dared tell you or your son.

2. From secularism you drifted deliberately to soft communalism. I don’t want to go too far back in history so let me start with the Shahbano judgement of the Supreme Court. Your husband Rajeevji, instead of supporting the secular voices at the time decided to go by the Muslim fundamentalists as they were making more noise than the others. And instead of allowing the destitute Muslim woman to get Rs 500 under the Criminal Procedure Code which is what the judgement really amounted to, intervened to bring in a new legislation whereby the divorced Muslim woman would no longer have the protection of the secular laws of the land. You probably don’t even know what all this is, but it allowed the Hindu fundamentalists the opportunity they wanted and in no time at all the old locks of an old mosque in Ayodhya were opened and the old Babri masjid/Ram Janambhoomi controversy revived. This led to a massive communalisation of UP, with your party pandering to the majoritarian views. And then Rajeev Gandhi sealed it by issuing the call of Ram Rajya for the general elections.

3. Your party paid only lip service to secularism and joined the communalists in linking secularism to the minorities. What do the Muslims have to do with secularism? As much or as little as any thinking Hindu? If India is to survive as a vibrant, independent, free, nation it has to be secular. Any fool, except fundamentalists will tell you that. So why is it that every time the Congress wants to establish itself as secular it does the following: holds iftar parties; pays and uses clerics in its election campaign; announce 15 point plans for minorities it has no intention of keeping but which are used by communal forces to polarise opinion; in short does nothing for the development of the poorest sections of society, that includes the minorities now, but just goes on with the usual rhetoric that has damaged secularism more than you probably will ever know or understand.

4. And how is it that the Congress party, despite your vows of secularism, led all other governments in arresting innocent Muslim youth, detaining them, beating and torturing them, and keeping them in jail for years until finally they are released by the courts as innocent? In Maharashtra, in Andhra Pradesh Muslims have been arrested for every terror blast under your governments. My neighbours children are in Maharashtra, one was a doctor and was arrested for terrorism? Just like that. And they tell me that in the state with your party in power, educated Muslims are being targeted. And you as the President of the Congress party have nothing to say or do about this. Not even when these poor boys are released, and come back to a life in ruins? Not even then, your Congress Soniaji is nowhere in sight for their rehabilitation.

5. You are opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi now but you are responsible for bringing him to power. The Congress could not counter him in Gujarat, it did not even try, with activists asking for your help but receiving only your silence. Even the widow of your Congress leader did not get your support, and I remember reading that when you went to Gujarat you did not even visit her lest it provoke the majority community into taking an anti-Congress position.

I can go on and on Soniaji. You can blame my advancing years. You can blame a lifetime I have waited for the Congress to relive the values it stood by. But now I know that is just a dream, that it will not happen and I can join my nephew with the realisation that we have not just given up the fight, but much worse. We do not have the fight left in us, and that is showing.

Goodbye Soniaji

An old man from Meerut