"Political secularism" as opposed to existential secularism which existed for centuries in India was a phenomenon injected into India's political dynamics by the Congress Party and stands examined in one of my past Columns. The point was earlier made then that the driving impulse of the Congress for this political construct was to ensure that the Congress wanted to carve captive vote banks after 1947 unsure and fearful that India's majority population which was in the forefront of the "freedom struggle" under a broad Congress umbrella would not subscribe to the Congress Party as a political outfit. This was an important distinction and Mahatma Gandhi too had implicitly alluded to it.
India at "Sixty" today is sick of the over-dosage of 'political secularism' that it has been subjected to by the Congress Party and a ragtag of other regional parties whose regional leaders mouth it endlessly without probably even knowing the spelling of their political construct. In the absence of any unifying ideology or a mass political movement to transform India, political coalitions are "cobbled" of "secular parties and like minded political parties". The people of India and even the Indian Muslim's educated and progressive sections have seen through this game and the series of over a dozen Assembly Elections lost by the so-called secular parties testifies to the fact that secularism is no longer a political 'mantra' to enable electoral wins.
It was therefore heartening for me to read recently an Op-ed in the Times of India by the eminent British Indian-born leading economist Lord Meghnad Desai, Member of the British House of Lords entitled ' Bereft of Ideas: The Congress Has No Clear- Cut Ideology, Policies' illuminating with greater intellectual brilliance the theme of this Column.
Some of the brilliant observations of Lord Desai need to be reproduced to debunk the political mantra of the political secularists and these are:
- India's (disfiguring) birthmark is the partition. It has disfigured the country ever since independence.
- Ever since (1947) the Congress has made denial of its complicity in partition its central plank .It is called secularism .The demon to exorcise is communalism. The dividing line is how Muslims are treated relative to Hindus in India. They have to be given a distinct and separate special status. They unlike the other minorities, cannot be treated the same as Hindus.
- If the Congress does not have secularism as its USP, what is left? The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its sacrifices and little else.
- After 60 years of independence, the country is willing to grow and erase its birthmark. The secularists are reluctant to take this step. They want their captive Muslims to patronize and neglect.
The last point is most significant and hits the nail on the head of India's current mood. India at large does not share the narrow, divisive and fudged perspectives of "political secularism" as expounded and practiced by the Congress Party and the so-called 'like-minded secular parties'. This is borne out by the results of elections in UP, Bihar, Gujarat and Karnataka where neither the Congress nor the so-called secularist parties could make any headway.
Even the Muslims have seen through the game of the political secularists. They want economic progress and share on a competitive basis in the tremendous economic prosperity that is entering the lives of the average Indian. The Muslims too are sick of the political secularists approach to the community of hoodwinking by holding Iftar parties during Ramzan and the political leaders wearing Muslim caps . Muslims in India are aware that the political secularists treat them as captive vote- banks by using the Muslim religious 'mullahs' to invoke the name of religion for voting for their patrons. Other than the religious 'mullahs' at political discussions convened by the political secularists one does not see any of 'Generation Next' of the Muslim community at such gatherings.
India at large as I have repeatedly stressed in this Column wants strong visionary leaders who with inclusive policies can lead India towards political and economic resurgence and India's political secularists cannot provide this unless they are ready to exorcise their patent trademark which perpetuates the 'disfiguring birthmark' of partition.