Amidst growing concern among Muslims that Congress under its new president, Rahul Gandhi, had embarked on soft-Hindutva ideology, the latter met a group of so-called Muslim leaders on Wednesday.
Notable among those who met Rahul were former planning commission member Syeda Hameed, JNU professor Zoya Hasan, former president of Aligarh Muslim University ZK Faizan, educationist Ilyas Malik , Zafar Mehmood and retired bureaucrat A F Faruqui.
The meeting was reportedly organised by one Nadeem Javed, the newly appointed head of the party’s minority wing, said one Congress insider. This was primarily to address the concerns among Muslims that the Congress under Rahul had decided to adopt soft Hindutva policy.
However, none of those who the Congress president was advised to appears to have any credentials as a representative of Muslims.
According to a report by PTI, Rahul said that while the BJP’s thought process was of division, the thought process of the Congress was of inclusiveness as it had to take everyone along, the source said.
The meeting with so-called Muslim leaders, added the PTI report, was part of a series of meetings planned by the party ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul was widely criticised during the Gujarat elections last year for desperately trying to outsmart the BJP in its support for Hindutva ideology when he was seen frequently visiting the temples. Many pundits and his political detractors had argued that Rahul was advised by his coterie to focus on soft Hindutva ideology since the Congress had long been deemed as a pro-Muslim party.
Rahul’s mother and the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, had recently expressed her disappointment how the BJP had managed to persuade people that Congress was a ‘Muslim party’, even though ‘we have always been to temples.’
The Congress on Wednesday faced criticism from its rivals for once again indulging in Muslim appeasement by holding a special meeting with intellectuals and projecting them as Muslim intellectuals. The party, however, downplayed the meeting saying the Congress believed in development for all, inclusion of all and equality for all.
“Our doors are open for everybody,” party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi was quoted by PTI.
BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao tweeted, “Media reports confirm @INCIndia is at votebank project, Again!! No talk of reforming Madrasas,Triple Talaq, M-youth being radicalised? Only agenda seems to be how to prevent BJP, abuse Hindus, delay Ayodhya verdict etc? Disgusting politics of @RahulGandhi!”
A report by ANI said that in a meeting with 12 so-called Muslim intellectuals, the Congress president was advised to not talk about Muslim community in particular and rather speak on issues like poverty and education on a whole.
Rahul and his party have widely been criticised for not raising their voices against the rampant lynchings of Muslims by Hindutva fanatics. In December last year, he had come under sharp attack for his silence after a man from Bengal was burnt alive by a Hindutva terrorist in Rajasthan.
Many felt that Rahul’s silence was to ensure that his core Hindu voters of Gujarat weren’t left upset in the crucial assembly elections.