Stop making compromises, raise the flag of secularism, exhorts Mani Shankar Aiyar
- PT Bureau
Stop making compromises, raise the flag of secularism, exhorts Mani Shankar Aiyar



At a time when many in the Congress' senior leadership have been blaming the party's stance on AFSPA and its questioning of the efficacy of Balakot strikes for its sound defeat the hustings, the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar has advocated exactly the opposite: Go all out to defend India's secularism, make no concession to the forces of obscurantism, and challenge the ideology of Hindutva with all your might.

Aiyar's advice, contained in his article published in the Indian Express, is being seen by many as a voice of sanity and one that reflects clarity of purpose.

Significantly, Congress has long stopped making references to Gujarat riots of 2002 and its spokespersons on television news debates still squirm when reminded of the fact that Sonia Gandhi had once called Narendra Modi a "Maut Ka Saudagar."

Aiyar, not given to ambiguity, said, "This is not the time for pious hopes. It is time to sound again the bugle of secular fundamentalism."

He reminded his own party that its alliance partner M K Stalin in Tamil Nadu did not fight under the banner of UPA and instead opted to rename his alliance as the "Secular Progressive Alliance,” only to emerge victorious. 

Aiyar, whose relationship with his own party has been less than smooth, effectively said that the Congress leadership will need to decide if it wanted to pursue "bold and uninhibited advocacy and practice of secularism," or was looking for "accommodation with the Hindutvawadis."

He expressed the fear that while so-called secularists were pussyfooting, the Hindutva was all set to embrace the "secularism” of its traditional ideological foes.

Aiyar weighed in on the ongoing public discourse about the future of the Congress and asked whether the saffron side has changed any of its stripes on the question of branding dissenters as "anti-national", the core thoughts and agenda of V D Savarkar and M S Golwalkar, the long-running divisive campaigns like love jihad, ghar wapsi and the lynching of Muslims by self-styled gau rakshaks.

Recalling expert-speak on the 2019 results, Aiyar said Yogendra Yadav has termed it as slide towards "non-theocratic majoritarianism," Pratap Bhanu Mehta called it a "victory for the politics of fear and hate" while Christophe Jaffrelot saw it as the making of an "ethnic democracy.” 

Aiyar said it was time Congress went gung-ho on its secular agenda, and deploy a language and strategy that is unambiguous.

Turning the Pakistan angle in Indian politics on its head, Aiyar said it was, in fact, the stance of the Pak-bashing BJP that amounted to taking India "towards the fulfilment of Jinnah’s dream."

"We have lost the secular battle. We must win the secular war," Aiyar wrote. But will Congress pay heed to the advice of a man it doesn't want to touch with a barge pole in election times?
 

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