Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Last Updated: December 29, 2022, 16:43 IST
AK Antony’s remark that Hindu votes matter and could do the trick for the Congress in 2024 has led to a frantic search for what is known as the Antony committee report. Following one of the worst Lok Sabha poll results in 2014, Sonia Gandhi set up a committee under AK Antony to elicit the reasons for the drubbing.
The Antony report was submitted to Sonia Gandhi at the end of 2014 and since then it has been gathering dust. In fact, if you visit the Congress headquarters, no one has an idea of where the copy of the report lies. Said a senior leader who was a colleague of AK Antony in the UPA government, “I don’t even think the report is around anymore. None of us have even gone back to read it.”
So why this search for the Antony committee report? That’s simply because much of what has been said by AK Antony recently is in his report of 2014. The Congress has lost one more Lok Sabha election since then and many state polls as well. The party faces a dismal presence with little optimism for the future.
The Antony report listed many reasons for the rout of the party but the most significant one was that the battle for 2014 was one between “communalism and secularism”. This hurt the Congress which was perceived as being pro-minority, resulting in electoral gains for the BJP. “The party’s minority appeasement policy was counterproductive. Also frequent statements by some Congress leaders on the Muslim quota antagonised and alienated the majority community,” it said. Not just this, the report also said that the Congress, because of frequent contradictions, lost the support of the minorities as well.
This report was dug out just before 2019, and the series of temple runs and an attempt to project a Hindu face of the Congress were based on it. The party refused to be dragged into any debate or narrative which would lead to polarisation and hurt it even more. In fact, during the last Lok Sabha polls and state elections, the party ensured that Rahul Gandhi, who was the main face of the Congress, went to temples. Rahul repeatedly spoke about his vision of Hindutva and Hinduism, which he said was the real one and not like that of the BJP which is “divisive” in nature. But in a post-mortem of the 2019 results, these public statements and narratives made the Congress walk into a trap. “How does one counter the ‘PM in Kedarnath’ pictures? How can we do it? We end up looking like a pale copy of the BJP, which no one gets impressed by,” said a leader.
At the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is being projected as a tapaswi (ascetic). The Congress may be pitching the yatra as being apolitical but this image of Rahul Gandhi as a tapaswi on a mission will be added to its Hindutva pitch for 2024.
Rahul Gandhi had once called AK Antony his mentor in politics. Antony may have retired from Delhi politics but his report is now back on the table. The question is – will it work? And how many in the Congress will read it?
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