New Delhi, Dec. 16: Sensing disquiet over the “soft Hindutva plank” adopted in Gujarat, Sonia Gandhi today signalled a “back-to-basics” policy shift by instructing Congress education ministers to walk out of a meeting of the National Council of Educational Research and Training here today.
In Parliament’s Central Hall, several party MPs were heard questioning Sonia’s move to “flirt” with “soft-Hindutva”. They said such a course would boomerang as it would reduce the Congress to the BJP’s “B-team”.
In Kerala, veteran leader K. Karunakaran took a swipe at the Congress president, saying the crushing defeat in Gujarat “should be a lesson” for the top leaders, who should change their “executive” style of functioning and become more democratic.
Short of ideas, Sonia plans to set up a probe panel to go into the debacle and form another to oversee arrangements in nine election-bound states. She also seemed upset that senior functionaries kept her in the “dark” over the ground situation in Gujarat.
The Congress chief summoned Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmad Patel, Kamal Nath, Shankersinh Vaghela and others for a stocktaking session. Indications are that some AICC office-bearers would be shunted out and Ghulam Nabi Azad brought back to the headquarters.
Sonia loyalists plan to drum up support to ward off the criticism unleashed by Karunakaran. “The game plan is to rally round Sonia and save three party functionaries — Kamal Nath, Ambika Soni and Ahmad Patel — who were responsible for formulating the party’s Gujarat strategy,” an MP from Maharashtra said. According to sources, if pressure mounts on Sonia, Nath might lose his job as general secretary. Vaghela has already offered to resign as Gujarat unit chief and it is a matter of time before it is accepted.
Sonia was also flooded with suggestions from MPs from Rajasthan and Maharashtra who called for a change of chief ministers in their states.
Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy tried to underplay the Gujarat debacle as an “artificial and temporary setback inflicted through a totally negative and divisive campaign that lasted nine months….”
“The BJP leaders hummed a hymn of hatred and these are the fruits of violence,” he said and asserted that communal forces will not be able to repeat the Hindutva experiment at the national level.
At the NCERT meet, education ministers of Congress-ruled states along with Left-ruled ones alleged the Centre was going ahead with the school curricula in an “autocratic manner”.
In a memorandum, they said human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and the current NCERT authorities had converted the council into an instrument of implementing the Sangh parivar’s communal agenda in the area of school education.
Joshi dismissed the walkout as “a political demonstration”.