The G-23 of the Congress has names with an impressive history of achievement in the party and beyond. But thousands of unknown and unnamed Congress cadres who gave to the party, but unavoidably received little or nothing in return, also believe in democracy. This statement is not one of denial, nor is it playing the proverbial ostrich. We thought the G-23 made their point and were suitably informed that party elections will be held when appropriate (something they agreed to in their interaction with the Congress President and later at the Congress Working Committee session in January. But are they moving the goalpost once again with their public display of disquiet (or reservations) in Jammu and as we are being told, very soon in Haryana?
Some home truths are imperative to bring into public discourse even though the party leadership remains patient and reflective. Our history of the last 50 years has not been an easy one, replete with complex challenges with the divisive politics of the BJP-RSS combine being the latest and most grievous. We remain trapped between those whose perception is that we brought this upon ourselves by claiming to be uncompromisingly secular, and those who believe we failed to put our money where our mouth is on our professed secularism.
The growing and dark footprint of communal forces has pushed us into forced errors of becoming self-conscious. As a result, we shy away from speaking about minorities and put on a public display of identifying with the cultural symbols of the majority that have largely been appropriated by the BJP. We have been forced to accept ‘mistakes’ made by our heroes because public mood appears to require it. Obviously, this calls for careful balancing of reality and perception, strategy and ideology. We need all leaders, old and young, happy and unhappy, ideologues and personally ambitious, favoured and neglected, to come together to deal with this challenge instead of cribbing about real and imagined democratic deficits. They must not forget that democracy is a process, not static in time. Ultimately, it is a relevant question to ask whether it is fair to kick the very ladder you have climbed to the top storey of life – from where making speeches is easy.
There are two ways of spending these dark moments: to count our blessings and the moments of joy and comfort our party has given us, or to whine about what we did not receive. If we choose the latter, what conviction will we carry with the innumerable workers who continue to hope that the darkness will give way. Besides, how will we be judged by history? It might be more important to worry about that than to seek a better place in the present.
Is it honourable to be asking what share we will have in the India of tomorrow and what credit our party will give us? Just as the names of national martyrs are engraved on India Gate, there are records in the Congress office where innumerable names are embossed as part of our history. For most of us, that is enough recognition.
(Salman Khurshid is a senior advocate, Congress party leader, and is a former Minister of External Affairs.)
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