Congress may debate AK Antony's take on 'minority appeasement'

New Delhi, June 29: Senior Congress leader A K Antony's remarks that some sections of society have an impression that the party is inclined to minority communities could start a debate in the party as a general secretary said the issue will be deliberated.

"He (Antony) is one of the seniormost leaders. What he has said and observed will certainly be discussed and debated," party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed told reporters.

Former Congres MP Rashid Alvi said "I have not gone through the statement given by Antonyji but Congress party is committed to minorities. I would like to go through the statement to see what kind of statement was given by Antonyji. But it is our committment to look after the interests of minorities in the country."

Former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari was cautious in his approach as he said that "without talking to A K Antony, who has a very prfound amount of gravitas, it will be inappropriate to give any comment" on his remarks.

While the party officially refrained from either endorsing or criticizing Antony's remarks, sources said a party general secretary had more than six months back communicated in writing to Antony himself in this regard. He had expressed the apprehension that BJP will try to paint Congress as a pro-Muslim party and try to derive political mileage by deepening such an impression.

Congress is trying to find an answer to its worst-ever poll performance

The Congress leader's argument was that since Hindus are divided in castes and they look at themselves more as a minority being in a particular caste and Muslims as a monolithic minority, it helps BJP's propaganda.

The debate has come at a time when the party has begun its exercise to find answers to its worst-ever poll debacle which has seen Congress numbers plummetting to just 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

The informal group, headed by A K Antony, has already met the party leadership of a number of states and is set to submit its report to Congress President Sonia Gandhi any day after July 6.

It has also come at a time when a Chintan Shivir is on the cards to work out the future strategy to revive the prganization.

Sources said the communication by the general secreatry to Antony was in response to a letter to all party general secretaries in which they were asked to to say what could be the advantage and disadvantage areas of Congress in Lok Sabha polls.

The party functionary felt an impression was created that Congress was indulging in appeasement of minorities, which helped BJP polarize the votes on communal lines.

Another party functionary, however, said Antony's remarks should be seen in the limited context of Kerala where Congress' alliance with Indian Union of Muslim League accentuated such a perception.

Addressing a meeting held at the KPCC headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram in honour of late Congress stalwart C K Govindan Nair yesterday, Antony had said "some sections of society have an impression that the party is inclined to certain communities or organisations. Congress' policy is equal justice to everyone. But people have doubt whether that policy is being implemented or not".

He had gone on to add "this doubt is created by the party's proximity towards minority communities, and such a situation would open the door for the entry of communal forces into Kerala".

There has been muted criticism within Congress of party President Sonia Gandhi's meeting with Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari in April in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections. BJP had made a big issue out of it accusing Congress of minority appeasement.

A Congress functioary also cited the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks in 2006 that Muslims had first claim on the country's resources and noted that BJP kept raising it for years to paint Congress as a party appeasing Muslims.


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