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What ails Ghulam Nabi Azad, other leaders, as Congress, Left 'project' an alliance

Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
There was a massive political rally in Kolkata on February 28 following the decision  of the Congress, the Left and the Indian Secular Front (ISF)  to forge an alliance. The outcome of the West Bengal elections  will be extremely important for the health of our democracy. The Left Front ruled Bengal for over 35 years, and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been in the lead for the last 10 years. 
The BJP is trying to breach that wall now in the hope of building a momentum in order to emerge as an 'invincible' force during the next general elections. However, one thing is clear: that the party has become an expert in using contradictions among its opponents and building up a counter-narrative of no opposition to Narendra Modi.
Despite all the glamor that is built up around the BJP and its claimed invincibility, the party at the most got 37.6% popular votes during the last general elections; if one counts votes of all the partners, the percentage would be 45.  It is possible to say that roughly 65% of voters of India did not vote for the BJP. At many places the percentage of this voter was far lower. 
In several states the ruling party used all its muscle power to dislodge the governments of the opposition parties. As elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry approach, new alliances are coming up and things seem to look pretty clear. Add to this the Sangh Parivar-supported  propaganda media, which unleashed fake news and deliberate diversionary tactics to help the saffron party. 
Still, alliances in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are a good signal for the Congress, Left and other parties. West Bengal is a complex case, as the Left and the Congress, one hand, and TMC, on the other, are at loggerheads. Even relations between the Left and the Congress are not easy. It is a situation very much like Uttar Pradesh, where the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party and the Congress are struggling against each other. While political leaders at the ground know things better, it is also a reality that in politics there should be some space for negotiations. 
Unfortunately, in West Bengal, the acrimony between the Left and the Congress on one hand and TMC on the other continues unabated. The entry of the ISF-led by Abbas Siddiqui is being seen as a threat to Mamata Banerjee's TMC, but one cannot say anything before the final outcome. Similarly the joining of the All-India United Democratic Front (AIDUF) and the  Bodo People's Front (BPF) the Mahajot led by the Congress is a good sign. Tamil Nadu and Kerala already have long-term alliances, so one can hope that the results in these states will provide hope to India. 
It is good to see Rahul Gandhi active in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Given the response, it is possible to say, the Congress needs to strengthen its organisational structure in all the states and build regional leaders. The Congress desperately needs leaders like Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Baghel, DK Shivkumar and others. 
With the Congress leadership in action -- both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are doing their best in southern India and Uttar Pradesh, respectively -- the 'rebel' party leaders have started their campaign. Ghulam Nabi Azad has gone so as to praise Narendra Modi in his meeting in Jammu in which many other leaders participated. One hopes, others who joined Azad in Jammu will regret what Modi said in the Rajya Sabha and the response of Azad, which seemed well scripted.  He knows well that BJP and the ruling party need a 'liberal' Muslim face, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, after they destroyed all the others who stood by India like the National Conference and the People's Democratic Part (PDP). Azad would surely fit in the scheme of things of the ruling party. 
All know that anyone from the Congress who speaks up against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi will get a huge media coverage and a narrative would be built that the party is over. Indeed, in politics things change very fast. Much depends on narrative and perception. Azad and others will not be able to provide any alternative as they are used to enjoying luxuries of power. They are the symbol of what ails the  Congress, the unelected imposed on the elected. These are the people who can't wait and vacate the space for the new and the  young. They are the ones who are now 'teaching' the party that the party leaders should be in touch with the 'grassroots'. The only thing in their favour is that these people will be 'magnified' by the PR media and a narrative would be built around them about their 'greatness'. This suits the BJP. It helps the party avoid discussion on  major issues confronting our country. Little do such leaders realise that when individuals become issues and socio-economic  issues are sidelined, the future of democracy turns bleak. 
Ghazala Wahab's book highlights how an apathetic,  hostile government attitude and prejudice at all levels of society have contributed to Muslim vulnerability and insecurity
Building up narrative around such leaders is a long-term strategy of the power elite. When the Congress was intoxicated with power and Azad was part of that intoxication, they did the same. Indeed, the likes of Azad and Manish Tiwari are products of Congress' nepotistic culture. Azad is the kind of Muslim leadership the party wants. 
One just needs to listen to Azad's speech in Parliament on his retiring day. He was 'proud' that he did not go to Pakistan. So, for being a proud Muslim, one needs to condemn Pakistan or suggest that India is a heaven for Muslims. What else is this if not hypocrisy? Why should Muslims  in India have to prove to be anti-Pakistan to prove they are patriotic? If a seasoned leader and a politician who happened to be the leader of his party in the Rajya Sabha has to resort such cheap gimmicks, one has to really agree with Ghazala Wahab's personal memoirs, 'Born a Muslim: Some Truth About Islam in India'. 
Meanwhile, propaganda has been unleashed on people by creating a fake narrative about the 'absence' of 'opposition'. Not difference in opinion but rootless leaders are being treated as 'great' and 'principled'. Such ambitious leaders can't go beyond their own personal interests. Ironically, for the first time in their life, many of these worthies are being treated as 'great' political leaders. In fact, most of them were responsible for Congress' failure to deal with Anna Hazare's political movement. They are the same people who were responsible for the downfall of UPA-II, too. 
It is time for the Congress and other parties handle these leaders with care and focus on building organisation and its ideological clarity. Today's Congress leadership is speaking against communalism in a much more stronger way than it was in UPA-I or II or during the Narsimha Rao leadership. We must give credit to Rahul Gandhi for this. 
It is time all those who believe in democracy and are concerned about it must demolish the BJP's 'invincibility' argument, focus on issues, ask question to power and forge an alliance on a long-term programme as the Left Front had in West Bengal or the United Democratic Front (UDF) has in Kerala, or now the DMK-led alliance has in Tamil Nadu. Alliances with a common minimum programme on a long-term basis is the only alternative to the politics of one nation, one party, one market, one neta, one narrative. 
The nation waits eagerly for the like minded parties dedicated to social justice, socialism and secularism to join hands and build a long-term plan of action. Only then democracy will be protected and an alternative would be  provided which the countrymen are looking for to usher in a secure future. 
---
*Human rights defender

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