The Telegraph
Monday , March 31 , 2014
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‘Intolerance’ slogan ache in Congress
Focus not working, feedback suggests

Sonia speaks at the rally in Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

New Delhi, March 30: The Congress leadership is getting feedback that its sustained efforts to make the “politics of intolerance and communalism” the main ingredient of the election discourse have not succeeded so far.

The party has rolled out a Narendra Modi-centric campaign, focusing on India’s pluralistic cultural ethos. But its assessment now is that Modi and his “development agenda” have struck a chord among many voters, particularly the youth.

The leadership is perplexed why people of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi have refused to attach any significance to the impressive track record of the Manmohan Singh government both in terms of “revolutionary” legislative measures and social sector investments while believing the “manufactured” narrative on the Gujarat model without any critical analysis.

The inability to counter the negative propaganda has been identified as a debilitating weakness, although no remedy has been found.

Congress sources feel that the top leadership should speak regularly as spokespersons are not being given due importance. One key strategist told The Telegraph: “Leaders like P. Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh, who are not fighting the elections, should talk daily and confront the falsehood. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should speak weekly to dispel the false impression being created about his government, apart from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul who have been talking now.”

Congress workers raise their hands during Sonia Gandhi’s public meeting on Sunday at Delhi’s Ajmal Khan Park, a venue the party hopes will be as lucky for it in this election as it was 34 years ago. Mukesh Sharma, a Delhi Congress spokesperson, said: “Ajmal Khan Park had proved lucky for the party in 1979 when Indira Gandhi had addressed her first rally here having lost power. In 1980, she had returned to power….”

The state unit chief, Arvinder Singh Lovely, described the venue as “historic”and said it was named after a former Congress president who had in 1921 in Ahmedabad sent out the message that “if we want to save and free our country, then people of all regions and religions have to come and fight together”. (PTI)

Releasing the manifesto a few days ago, Sonia had said: “I believe this election will not be about just programmes, policies or the economy. This election is to keep the constitutional fabric of the country intact. It is the time to fight to protect our rich tradition of unity in diversity. We will fight for unity, not for uniformity. We will have to fight to protect an ideology that unites us, which does not make people fight against each other.”

For the first time, the manifesto made indirect references to Modi’s politics, stressing that no single individual can solve all the problems.

Addressing a public rally in Delhi today, Sonia focused on the same theme, saying India’s pluralistic culture was more valuable than power. Arguing that power could be both constructive and destructive, she said: “Some forces trying to grab power at present would lead India to destruction and darkness.”

Although she did not name Modi, it was clear who she was alluding to.

Sonia went on to explain that patriotism should be viewed in the toil of the common man, the bravery of soldiers and the sacrifice of leaders instead of the lofty words being used at rallies now.

She said those who did not understand the value of secularism and pluralism were incapable of being patriotic. This was the harshest ideological attack she has made yet while avoiding any personal criticism.

The intention to draw the audience’s attention to the BJP’s ideological issues was obvious as she spent most of the time discussing divisive politics and exclusivism instead of pointing to the infirmities of the Gujarat model.