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Salman Khurshid Hindutva-ISIS Remark is Part of Bigger Congress Strategy for Kerala

Author: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
Publication: News18.com
Date: November 12, 2021
URL:      https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/salman-khurshid-hindutva-isis-remark-part-of-bigger-congress-gandhi-strategy-for-kerala-4434440.html?s=03

This is why Mani Shankar Aiyar’s statements on the PM’s socio-economic background have ensured his banishment from the court, but Salman Khurshid’s electorally damaging statements never will.

Looks like the Gandhi family’s inner coterie never learn. Why should they after all? They have zero incentive to win elections, zero incentive to deliver results, zero incentive to have a track record of performance, because all of these virtues which would be essential in any other party are substitutable by fawning loyalty to the family in the Congress. The latest example is Salman Khurshid’s tone deaf comparison of Hindutva with abominable terrorist organisations like the ISIS and Boko Haram. Mind you despite the public indignation, every single BJP leader is smiling because this facile comparison is one more nail in the Congress coffin, aiding consolidation of the Hindu vote and keeping the Congress as a perpetual double-digit party.

This is where we need to understand that not only is the BJP wrong but that the Congress leader’s actions are extremely well thought-out and only the curtain-raiser to even more extreme statements by the party’s leaders.


The key to understanding this lies in the political prospects of the Congress today. If you look at the electoral map of 2019, you will see that Kerala and Punjab accounted for a consolidated bulk of the Congress seats, pushing it from an abysmal 44 (in 2014) to a somewhat less abysmal 52. The only other state where the it managed to get more than one or two seats was Tamil Nadu which was entirely dependent on the charity of alliance partner DMK, else it’s seat count would’ve remained 44.

Today Punjab is an uncertain commodity, mostly due to Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi’s personal mismanagement. They replaced a tried-and-tested warhorse, Amarinder Singh, with a highly unpredictable Navjot Singh Sidhu, mostly because of Sidhu’s cringe-inducing lackeying of the Gandhis and despite his complete lack of any experience or delivery at the governmental or organisational level.

Add this to the pendulum-like nature of Tamil Nadu politics and you see that in the next election, eight seats in Tamil Nadu are likely out and possibly the eight seats in Punjab too. This means Kerala is the last bastion—a Kerala that is happy to re-elect a Communist state government but also give the overwhelming majority of 15 of its 20 Lok Sabha seats to the Indian National Congress (INC).

Consequently, nurturing the vote bank here is crucial priority. Kerala, of course, is famous for its beaches, coconuts, cuisine, culture and of late an increasing Muslim radicalisation. Born out of deep linkages with Malayali expatriate labour in the Gulf countries, they are increasingly a source of recruitment for every radical Jihadist organisation around, including and especially the ISIS. While the Congress has to condemn such organisations, its political future depends on mollycoddling such organisations.

It does this in two ways: first, to deny their terrorist actions and second, to create a false equivalence for those terrorist actions. Mind you, this is personally blessed not just by the serially incompetent brother-sister duo, but also by the mother. After all, Salman Khurshid not only actively promoted the “saffron terror” bogey but also undermined his own government killing terrorists in Delhi’s Batla House, claiming that Sonia Gandhi had cried when she saw the photos and visuals of dead terrorists.

This is why Mani Shankar Aiyar’s statements on the Prime Minister’s socio-economic background have ensured his banishment from the court, but Salman Khurshid’s even more electorally damaging statements never will. As Rahul and Priyanka see them, these are admirable calls to rally the troops in Kerala.


Here in lies the fundamental contradiction—what is good for the Congress in Kerala is completely counterproductive for it in the rest of the country given the undeniable consolidation of the Hindu vote. The clash between the Gandhis and the G23 stems from the fact that the Gandhis emphasise the former—wanting to nurture the one bird in hand—while the G23 emphasise the latter, wanting to go after the two birds in the bush.

It also explains why the harshest condemnation of Khurshid’s book has come from fellow Muslim member of the G23—Ghulam Nabi Azad. Equally, it emphasises the sheer lack of ambition of the Gandhi siblings: not wanting to take risks, not wanting to course-correct and happy with a tenuous hold in just one state. After all, the number of sycophants who will hail every sneeze of Priyanka and every hiccup of Rahul Gandhi in the pages of the Washington Post and The New York Times are legion. The siblings neither need finances nor security, biding time till what they believe is their imminent return to power, refusing to acknowledge that other Congress leaders don’t have that luxury.

This also explains why the Congress campaign in Kerala’s state election was aimed not at the ruling CPM but at the BJP. The main fear of the siblings (and rightly so) was that the emergence of the BJP in any significant numbers in Kerala would make the INC irrelevant in five years, with the replacement of the CPM-INC binary with a CPM-BJP one. One way of ensuring this is to pander to every regressive trope of Kerala Muslims, ensuring a captive and transferable vote bank.

Now while the siblings’ calculations may be logical for the Congress, they are not for India. This line will invariably lead to the only really national opposition party turning into either an existential danger like Jinnah’s Muslim League or into a fringe organisation that plays spoiler like Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. Irrespective, it seems the Congress is determined to reduce itself to a regional party and the venom that started with “saffron terror” and progressed to equating Hindutva with ISIS will only spread.


-Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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