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As firm as Nehru on secularism: Rahul

Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi asserted on Wednesday that the Congress's commitment to inclusive politics cannot be diluted and there should be no reason for any misgivings about a dilution of its stand on secularism for electoral gains.

Interacting with a group of Muslim intellectuals, which included politicians, authors, lawyers, professors, social activists and retired bureaucrats, Rahul said: "The Congress cannot survive following a divisive model. My commitment is the same as Jawaharlal Nehru's or Sonia Gandhi's and there is no reason for any doubt on that account. I want every section of the society to be equal partners in India's growth."

Rahul was responding to apprehensions about an alleged Congress strategy to distance itself from Muslims to counter the BJP propaganda about appeasement and anti-Hindu politics.

The Congress president said: "The BJP creates divisions in the society and then exploits the hatred and anger for political gains. The Congress has to work for uniting the society. To divide society for votes is a wrong thought process. We understand social harmony is an imperative for development. You cannot exclude some sections of the society from the growth process and expect peace."

Asked about the space for Muslims and the agenda for their welfare, Rahul said: "We don't make policies in that manner - for Muslims, Dalits... etc. We treat everybody as equal and our policy is for weaker sections. Equality and justice are enshrined in the Constitution for everybody. It is injustice that creates all the problems."

When somebody endorsed a tactical positioning to prevent the BJP from creating religious polarisation, Rahul said: "We cannot ignore injustice for electoral gains. Ours is not merely a power struggle against Narendra Modi, we are fighting an ideological battle. If there is injustice against any section of the society, the Congress will stand with them. There is no question of dilution of the stand for political expediency."

Rahul's assurance came as a relief to the participants, some of whom were worried about the impression created by the media that the Congress was following soft-Hindtuva.

One participant told The Telegraph: "We expressed our apprehensions. Some people reminded Rahulji of the values of the freedom struggle and even said a large number of Muslims chose not to go to Pakistan because they loved India and trusted Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru more than any other leader. We are happy Rahulji said there was no change in the Congress stand."

Many participants stressed the growing fear psychosis among Muslims and the perils of a divisive propaganda. Some of them said there was a systematic plan to remove Muslim names from voters' list in many states.

Others pointed to discrimination in various forms, including pressure on minority educational institutions and dilution of welfare programmes. The citizenship controversy in Assam also cropped up.

Sources said Rahul also responded to queries on a possible alliance, arguing that parties coming together for the sole purpose of winning elections was fraught with risks. He stressed the need for "sustainable alliances" on the basis of ideological affinity.

But he expressed the Congress's willingness to walk the extra mile to forge Opposition unity to defeat the BJP. He said the party's doors were open for every section of the society.

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