‘CAA derailed Congress plan to hit at govt on growth’

Ghughuti Bulletin


NEW DELHI: As the debate on NPR-NRC-CAA continues to roil the political waters, there is regret in Congress that the emotive and divisive issue has put in the shade the party leadership’s considered strategy to focus on economic crisis to put the
Modi government in the dock.

Senior Congress functionary and former chief minister
Harish Rawat put the lament on record by saying that the citizenship debate has forced the party to play on BJP’s home pitch.

“The massive
Bharat Bachao Rally in Delhi succeeded in bringing focus on economic issues, inflation and unemployment which have acquired critical proportions under the BJP rule. Unfortunately, subsequent developments (CAA etc) happened so fast that they created an atmosphere. And it put a stop on what we started with the Delhi rally,” Rawat told TOI in an interview.

Referring to “divisive” issues as BJP’s turf, Rawat drew on cricketing analogy to say that Congress has always felt comfortable batting on “our pitch of peace, harmony and development”.

Extending the analogy, he said, “Bharat Bachao rally was a big demonstration of Congress vision. Unfortunately, CAA happened. Then they bowled the
NPR ball, then the NRC delivery. It put our issues in the background.”

“But this rough phase will subside… We will go back on our pitch and force them (BJP) to play on our pitch. As they or we start playing on our pitch, you will see that Congress will score better,” he added.

The senior AICC general secretary said Congress will soon go to states with the agenda of economy and jobs to galvanise the “restlessness” against BJP. “As things improve, there will be more ‘Bharat Bachao’ rallies in states,” he said.

It was not that Congress was blindsided by the Citizenship debate but it had to take a stand on what Rawat called Assam, with majority of Hindus, seeing as a threat to its identity and what others saw as a threat to the “Ambedkar effect” on the Constitution — equality on the basis of religion, caste, birth.

“Congress was not distracted. We understand this game … BJP brought these emotive issues purposely so that people were swept in emotion and it created division,” he argued.

“The intelligentsia opposed it. All, including Muslims, accepted the verdict for
Ram Temple in
Ayodhya. The government was thus seen as unnecessarily provoking the people … the situation unfolded so swiftly, it was not in our control. It was a must for Congress to lead this sentiment,” Rawat said.

Though lamenting the loss of spotlight on economy and jobs, Rawat said there was hope in the big vindication of Congress stance – BJP-ruled Bihar’s veto of NPR, Prime Minister
Narendra Modi’s retracing of steps on NRC and BJP’s massive defeat in recent Delhi elections.

“They are still stubborn on CAA but we are confident that the Supreme Court will revalidate the constitutional position… We have time to refocus on our issues and retrain the politics towards them,” he said.

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