Sonia Gandhi’s NAC comprised salon socialists, green terrorists and anti-business activists; the harm they did to the country is yet to be undone.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked several pertinent questions that the Congress need to answer in earnest. In his first election rally for the ongoing Assembly elections, he accused the grand old party in Jagdalpur of supporting “urban Naxals”.
“The urban Maoists who live in air conditioned homes in the cities, look clean and whose children study abroad, remote control the Adivasi children in the Naxal-dominated areas,” Modi said. He went on to add, “I want to ask the Congress why it supports the urban Maoists when the government takes action against them and come to Bastar and speak against Naxalism.”
Typically, the Congress has tried to parry Modi’s attack. Speaking to a news channel, Congress leader Sushmita Deb said, “The PM is again shooting from his mouth. It was our entire leadership in Chhattisgarh that was wiped out in a Naxal attack. His frivolous campaign wouldn’t work here.” While she is right about the slaughter of Chhattisgarh’s Congress leadership five years ago, she and her party have not been able to explain their proximity to Naxals and their sympathisers.
- Chidambaram, himself a former Home Minister, seems to suggest that there is no such thing as urban Naxalism. Reacting to the legal action by the Pune police against the alleged urban Naxals P. Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, the senior Congress leader said, “They are left-wing intellectuals. They are working with tribals and the downtrodden. They are being intimidated by the government because they are perceived as strong opponents of the right-wing.”
In September, Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Ashwani Kumar appeared for the five accused. Against this backdrop, the Prime Minister’s remarks don’t look “frivolous”.
It has been quite some time that the GOP has been hobnobbing with Naxals or Maoists. The United Progressive Alliance government had appointed the convicted Naxal activist Binayak Sen in a key committee of the Planning Commission in 2011. The Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state had opposed the move at the time.
The former Chief Minister and Congress leader at the time, Ajit Jogi, supported the appointment of Sen, a physician: “There is nothing wrong if the country wants to benefit from the services of Sen, who is a world renowned medical expert.”
PTI reported on 22 May 2011, that Chhattisgarh Congress Committee member Nandkumar Patel said the issue should not be politicised and questioned the rationale behind the BJP’s opposition to the activist. A court in Chhattisgarh had earlier convicted the 61-year-old public health specialist for sedition in December 2010 for his links with Maoists.
It was not just the state BJP, Chief Minister Raman Singh also expressed his displeasure over the appointment. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who headed the erstwhile commission, the Chief Minister had highlighted Sen’s conviction on sedition. He also boycotted Plan panel meetings.
Manmohan Singh must have found himself in a quandary. For, on 6 January 2009, he had listed Naxalism among “the most serious threats” to internal security. He went on to say, “It [Naxalism] is still able to garner support from among members of civil society and civil liberties organisations. It still attracts sections of the youth.”
A year later, at a national press conference in May 2010, Manmohan Singh repeated this, “I have been saying for the last three years that Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country.”
His party, however, continued to fraternise with Naxals; many Naxal sympathisers infested Lutyens Delhi; some of them wormed their way into the circus that the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi surrounded herself with—the National Advisory Council (NAC). The NAC, it may be mentioned, comprised salon socialists, green terrorists, and anti-business activists; the harm they did to the country is yet to be undone.
They also did a great deal of harm to the Congress. It was because of their baneful influence that the party turned leftward after coming to power in 2004, checking economic reforms, hurting investor sentiment, stunting job growth, and increasing corruption. Even after the Congress parted ways with the Left Front in 2008, the GOP’s instincts and proclivities remained—and still are—left-leaning.
The Chhattisgarh Congress paid a terrible price for its dalliance with Naxals. In a terror strike, the left-wing ultras murdered, among others, top party leaders V.C. Shukla, Mahendra Karma, and Nand Kumar Patel. This was the attack Sushmita Deb was referring to. Karma, founder of the anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum, was made to suffer terribly before his death. A group of ferocious women Naxals stabbed him 78 times.
However, the Naxals’ slaughter of the Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh and other cruelties have had little effect on the thinking and behaviour of the Congress. This is evident from its soft approach towards urban Naxals.
Modi’s comments and questions are valid. Even if the Congress doesn’t offer correct answers, it can do itself a favour by distancing itself from any kind of Naxals. For its own sake if not for the country’s.