Cleric's call on secular card: Is Congress's Modi strategy going awry?

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Has the Narendra Modi factor begun to boomerang for the Congress? After Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind chief Syed Mehmood Maulana Madani said on Sunday that there is no reason for the Muslims in the country to unnecessarily feel apprehensive about Modi, one suspects that the plan is somewhat going awry for the Congress.

By cautioning the Congress against instilling fear in the minds of the Muslims to get their votes, Madani indicated at an inevitable shift in Indian politics and that is, the secular card can no longer be taken for granted to assure votes during the elections.

Politics is more competitive now and positive campaigning and constructive work on the ground can only work towards the benefit of political parties and their leaders. The transformation of Narendra Modi over the last 11 years and the feeling expressed by Madani on Sunday have effectively wiped out any communal/secular differences between the political parties in Indian politics now. The rule of the game is clear now: Only positive canvassing will only help the parties from here on.

If the Gandhis can avoid taking Modi head on, why can't other Congress leaders?

It is difficult to understand why the Gandhis can not make the Congress understand this simple truth. Sonia Gandhi had called Modi Maut Ka Saudagar in 2007 but after losing the Gujarat assembly polls that year, the Gandhis never again made any personal attack on Modi. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, too, avoids any mention about Modi whenever he speaks at rallies.

The move, whether out of arrogance or conviction, is a commendable one but no other party leader tries to follow the example set by their leaders. Nowadays, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is found speaking about Modi on communal and secular angles. It seems the Congress only knows to tackle Modi with a double-edged sword.

Gujarat 2002 had given the Congress a nice opportunity to shift the focus from December 6, 1992, when the PV Narasimha Rao government failed to prevent the demolition of the Babri mosque. Gujarat 2002 has served the party well whenever the need arose to attack the communal forces. But now, after Modi won three consecutive assembly elections and is making a noteworthy progress towards the national stage, the coin is gradually losing its sheen. PM Singh could have been the Congress's answer to the Modi of today, but he fell flat on his face.

Yes, there will be opinions and counter-opinions between individuals and groups with the judiciary acting now and then, but as far as the bigger political picture is concerned, 2002 riots cease to look the same-old Brahmastra for the Congress and other 'so-called' secular parties. The fresh instances of riots in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have left more impact in the commoners' mind. They have become more decisive for the 2014 polls.

Modi's task of getting rid of a negative image has been immensely benefitted by the Congress's excessive counter-campaigning. The overdose has left an impact on an already changing mindset of the minorities and the tide is looking to go against the 'secular' forces.

It was inevitable due to historical reasons. The 'secular' parties have not done anything substantial for the uplift of the minorities in all these years, apart from issuing hot statements of protecting them from the right-wing forces. But this has stopped paying off. Perhaps because the minorities were continued to be underestimated as stagnant vote-banks. Even if at a slow pace, the minorities have realised that only tall claims will not serve them and we have seen the emergence of minority parties, who have begun to assert the viewpoints of the community.

This community doesn't care about the identity of a Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi or anybody else. What it sees is that who has served it better, like any entity in a democracy. Modi, by the virtue of his 12-year-old career of an administrator, has a better understanding of the politics of development than say what a Rahul Gandhi or a Akhilesh Yadav or a Mamata Banerjee has. Madani has raised a high alarm for the secularists. Those who ignore it will be doing so at their own peril.

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