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Congress presidential polls? Bharat Jodo to establish Rahul as top national leader: Aiyar

By Our Representative 

Known for courting controversies, former Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar has suggested that Congress presidential polls, being fought between Shashi Tharoor and Mallikarjun Kharge, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs respectively, are being held a time when Rahul Gandhi is all set to establish his leadership through his Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Aiyar, in Ahmedabad to speak at a seminar organised by the Pluralist India, Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti and the Socialist Party (India), said, during the pre-Independence as well as post-Independence days, the Congress leaders were never important enough. “One has to see the Congress presidential polls in the context of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in this framework”, he said, answering a question from Counterview.
Thus, during the pre-Independence era, Mahatma Gandhi was the undisputed Congress leader, many were elected as party presidents one after another, but yet they were “not important” in overall political structure, while during the post-Independence period, when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister, UN Dhebar, who belonged to Gujarat, was the Congress president.
Nobody remembers Dhebar today for occupying the Congress president’s post, Aiyar, who was temporarily suspended for calling Modi 'neech' (lowly), underlined, adding, the whole purpose of the Bharat Jodo Yatra is to reclaim the Congress role as a uniting force of the country at a time when efforts are being made to divide people along religious lines.
The aim of Bharat Jodo Yatra is to unite Congress, because India will unite only if the Congress is united, said Aiyar. If the Congress is divided, the country will also remain divided, noting, already, one can see the impact: leaders like Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar are beginning to hope to put up a united fight in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Sandeep Pandey
Stating that twice did he participate in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, first in Tamil Nadu and then in Kerala. “Tamil Nadu politics is such that the Congress will not come to power in the state in the next 60 years. Yet, there was tremendous enthusiasm among the organisers to bring in thousands of people to participate in the yatra”, he said.
As for Kerala, in Mallapuram, a sparsely populated hilly area, he said, he first reached the spots where the yatra was to about to reach and was surprised to see how thousands would wait to take a five second glance of walking Rahul Gandhi for hours. “After the yatra would pass, I saw from behind, people too would start walking, considering it as their own.”
Claiming that in Kerala, the Left Front, which rules the state, “supported” the yatra, Aiyar said, if they had wanted, they could have stopped it from proceeding further or created hurdles. But they refrained from any such step. Predicting that the yatra, which has had “tremendous impact” in South India, is going to make a similar impact in North India, he said, this would establish Rahul Gandhi as an alternative leader who could unite the entire opposition.
Aiyar said, it is not without reason that as many as 150 civil society organisations, including the political group under Gandhian leader Sandeep Pandey -- which had organised the Ahmedabad seminar – as also persons like Yogendra Yadav were participating in the yatra. They all stand for uniting India, as against the ruling dispensation which wants to divide the country.
Those who spoke at the one-day meet, called “How to Secure Hindu-Muslim Unity: The Idea of India”, included well-known political commentator Ram Puniyani, top Gujarat academic Ghanshyam Shah and Mumbai-based social activist Firoz Mithiborwala. 
Firoz Mithiborwala, Ghanshyam Shah, Ram Puniyani
If Puniyani stressed that today’s problem is not of religion “but politics played in the name of religion”, Prof Shah believed that the politics of dividing people on religious lines will logically lead to more divisions along caste and regional lines in the country.
Mithiborwala created a stir among the participants, a big large section of whom were Muslims, when he said he “supported” Prime minister Narendra Modi’s ban on triple talaq, which should have been withdrawn by the Muslim leadership much earlier.
When some participants objected stating he was digressing from the real topic, he shot back, stating, “This suggests how intolerant a section of Muslims, too, are. They cannot accept criticism. Both Hindu and Muslim intolerance need to be fought”, he said.

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