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What is the Congress ideology?

Despite an open invitation to support Congress Ideology, no one really seems to know exactly what that ideology is

india Updated: Apr 15, 2009 12:39 IST

"Do you believe in the Congress and its ideology? Do you think Congress is the most deserving party to lead the country? Be a part of network of friends and well-wishers of Congress...Log on to http://www.friendsofcongress.com to join HANDS," a message in my cell phone inbox read. Sent out as part of its massive campaign exercise, this message from the Congress is trying to get people to join hands (they obviously intended the pun) with them. And on Monday, I was also one of their targets.

The message set me thinking. "Join hands with the Congress if you believe in their ideology..." I would actually. Except that I really do not know what their ideology is. What does the Congress stand for today? What space does it claim to occupy in today's fragmented polity?

Is the Congress a socialist, ‘moderate', left of center or centrist party? Well, centrist enough for its prime minister to proclaim love for former United States president George Bush! Or socialist enough to actively pursue neo liberal economic policies and cozy up to the US in every sphere!

Is the Congress committed to the ideology of secularism? The 1984 anti-Sikh riots speak for themselves. It was a Congress government at the center that silently while the nation watched the BJP and its friends demolish the Babri Masjid.

Congress - a party for the poor? Well, it seems to have done very little for the poor despite being in power for a good chunk of India's independent years. Its pursuance of pro-poor policies now is merely a reaction to the increasing political competition due to the emergence of several parties, challenging its earlier monopoly that allowed it to rule in ignorance.

It claims to be the party that opened the doors to liberalization and economic reforms in the country in 1991. But there has been enough evidence and writing to prove how liberalization was actually former finance minister Yashwant Sinha's brainchild.

I am not a Congress-basher. Just that I am genuinely confused about the party's current ideological status. It used to be a party for the minorities, Dalits and backward classes. But smaller parties like the BSP, SP, and RJD now seem to be jostling for that space, slowly pushing the Congress out.

The truth is that the Congress, unlike the other main national parties, does not harbour any ideology or thought process today. The BJP is clearly right wing. Hindutva is its existence plank. It is unabashedly structured around communal politics. The Left is based on the ideals of Communism, deeply rooted in Marxist ideology (I do not consider its policies in West Bengal as a dilution of its ideology. It is merely a case of adaptation in changing times.)

Both these parties do deviate from their beliefs occasionally, but the basis of their existence remains the same.

While both the Left and the right are driven by specific philosophies - good or bad, the Congress seems to be struggling for its own, exclusive space in the political arena. The party needs to find its ground soon, before it loses its relevance in an era of mushrooming political parties. Even dynastic politics is no longer its preserve with most parties encouraging family members of their existing leaders to join politics!

While dogmatic and rigid ideology is harmful, the grand old party of India must evolve its own principles to stand by, and create a space that cannot be easily dented by others, if it does wish to remain a power to reckon with in the great Indian political game.

By the way, I visited ‘friendsofCongress' website and despite their open invitation to those who believe in their philosophy, did not find any mention or description of their ideology. They seem as confused as I am!