Article 370: The Congress party’s existential dilemma worsens
Many senior Congress party leaders have indicated an opinion counter to the offical line. It is also likely that if a survey were to be carried out today, no less than 70% of voters may support the Government’s move on Article 370. Therefore, the Congress party’s official stand shows it as weak on national security, unpatriotic even and alienate voters on issues that go beyond national security
My own View – the party could have taken an alternate approach –
1. The Congress party could have held a very nuanced view talking about unpredictable outcomes. With violence having reduced so much since 2007, why introduce uncertainty for everyone? During the Iraq WMD senate discussions, numerous senators supported the War move (on account of losing votes) only to regret later as the war turned on its head. In 1965, nearly 2/3rd Americans supported the war in Vietnam, it dropped by nearly half in 1969-70. Things change, holding a nuanced view may actually be a sign of wisdom.
2. The Congress could have offered conditional support while strongly criticising the Govt for its approach in taking the decision, for being unfair to Kashmiris and for the Govt not thinking through the risks properly. It could have shown maturity by asking everyone to use this opportunity to heal wounds and move forward. For example, some sort of reconciliation commission could have been a sensible and healing suggestion.
3. The Congress could have offered conditional support while requesting the Govt to remove AFSPA in most parts of Kashmir so that citizens can enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger nation. It could have further used the opportunity to strongly criticise Pakistan and Hurriyat for muddying the waters in Kashmir and a clear explicit threat that Kashmir was an integral part of India and Pakistan and Hurriyat will be taught a lesson if they increased violence.
These are just examples and perhaps there are many nuanced positions that does not alienate voters and yet may turnout to be wise over the next 2 to 3 years. . The Congress instead relied on another American technique. US Congressmen across the country tend to have ideological positions that are relevant to their States while broadly agreeing on their national ideology. So a Blue state (democrat strong state) Republican would be in favour of Gun control while a Red state (Republican strong state) Democrat could be against full abortion rights.This is one reason why the party appears to have such split opinions across the country.
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The Bigger Problem
Article 370 issue once again brings forth a much bigger problem for the Congress party. It is unclear what hot button issues drive the party agenda. To be specific –
What are the emotional issues in which Congress leads the BJP and also that a large proportion of the population agrees with the Congress, not the BJP?
If you think of it, there are no such issues. It is this lack of issues that puts the Congress in a bind everytime BJP pushes its agenda. If a new president is elected or selected soon, identifying the hot button emotional issues that differentiate the Congress from the BJP and also attract support from a majority of voters should be the number 1 agenda. Without that, the party will see its decimation much before elections 2024.
Read our In-depth coverage of the Article 370