A day after the Congress-NCP opted for a strident “nationalist” narrative by pushing for expulsion of the AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan for failing to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” in the state assembly, they are finding themselves in the bind to explain their stance.
While the Congress seems split on the issue with a section of the party disagreeing with the stance taken by Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil to push for action against Pathan, NCP seems to have quietly rejigged its earlier position. In the corridors of the Vidhan Bhavan, there were also murmurs that the suspension would not hold and would have to be revoked by the Speaker.
There is a reason why there is no love lost between the Opposition and the AIMIM, the newest entrant in state politics. The Hyderabad-based party made a debut in Maharashtra in 2014 assembly polls, winning two seats, Aurangabad city and Byculla constituency in Mumbai. They had however contested 24 seats in largely Muslim-dominated areas, including 12 in Mumbai alone and undercut traditional voter base of the Congress and to some extent the NCP besides the Samajwadi Party.
“I have asked the state party unit to come out with a clear position on the issue. I think it’s unfortunate if the Leader of Opposition sought the suspension. We can’t rush to make a stance and need a more nuanced approach on the “nationalism” debate. What is clear though that both MIM and Hindu right wing, the BJP may seem at polar opposites but are pushing the country towards a same goal, that of polarization. They both can reap benefits of this,’’ said former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Like Chavan, others in the party especially the minority legislators are miffed with their other colleagues and especially Vikhe-Patil for rushing head along into trouble.
“This just sends an absolutely wrong signal to the minority community. Why should we be siding with RSS version of nationalism and helping them with their agenda ? This was an instance of match fixing between two extremist parties as such a controversy helps both MIM and BJP. We, however, lose any which way. Not just Congress, even Samajwadi Party MLA present during the controversy did not take a stance against dominant view,’’ said a Muslim legislator from Congress.
Another section within the Congress however supported the stance saying it threw a spanner on the BJP plan to portray them as ‘anti nationals’.
NCP, chose to sing a different tune a day later. “We did not support suspension because he did not say Bharat Mata ki jai, we supported it because of the disruptions and chaos caused in the assembly,’’ said Nawab Malik, the party spokesperson. He added that NCP totally supports slogan of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ as that’s in praise of the motherland but RSS would have to clarify if their slogan is in praise of our motherland or ‘Goddess’. “That is a clear bid to appropriate nationalism for the dominant religion,’’ he said.