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In Sabarimala Verdict, Rahul Gandhi Faces Same Dilemma His Father Faced During Shah Bano Case

Parallels can be drawn between Rahul’s dilemma and the one faced by his father Rajiv Gandhi following the Shah Bano case.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:October 6, 2018, 2:19 PM IST
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In Sabarimala Verdict, Rahul Gandhi Faces Same Dilemma His Father Faced During Shah Bano Case
File photo of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
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New Delhi: In another piquant Centre versus State situation, the Congress tried hard to explain the fact that while it strongly backed the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups at Sabarimala Temple, while down in Kerala, its party leaders were protesting against the verdict.

In Kerala, the Congress sounded no different than activist Rahul Easwar and many others who said the “sanctity and age-old customs” should not be tampered with.

The party, however, denied any contradiction in the party’s stand. “Kerala Congress unit is well within its rights. I don’t see any contradiction on the ground,” said spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

But what does this mean for the women empowerment push by party Congress president Rahul Gandhi? Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Deb and spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi are among many within the Congress who have whole heartedly supported the Supreme Court verdict. But despite the party speaking about inner democracy and rights of state unit to do their own politics, the support for those opposing the verdict puts them and Rahul Gandhi in a precarious position.

Parallels can be drawn between Rahul’s dilemma and the one faced by his father Rajiv Gandhi following the Shah Bano case.

A young, 21st Century tech savvy, modern image of Rajiv Gandhi received a major hit when he pandered to orthodox Muslims. It angered progressive Muslims even within his own cabinet like Arif Mohammed Khan.

In the long run, it neither helped Rajiv nor the party. Muslims have warmed up to the Samajwadi Party, BSP and the Trinamool Congress while the Congress is caught in the dilemma of Hindutva.

Some argue that Rahul’s central leadership cannot be blamed for what the state unit does. But this logic is hard to accept as in a party like the Congress, where the centre has an iron grip, Rahul’s silence is sending the wrong message.

However, says author and political analyst Rasheed Kidwai, “The Congress has a tendency to fall between two stools on emotive, religious issues. The Congress needs to deliberate among themselves rather than sticking to Liberal-Left approach. Courage of conviction is required. It is perfectly fine for a state unit to have divergent views. Diversity, dissent is an essential part of democracy. Rahul Gandhi-led Congress need not be apologetic about it.”

But it’s certainly made many in his party uncomfortable because it hits at the Congress’ image of being pro-women and progressive. More than that, it hits at Rahul Gandhi’s image of breaking the norms.

(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat of the state Assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you put on the psephologist's hat. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections. Elections = News18)
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