Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday met Muslim intellectuals and is believed to have told them that his party would adopt an inclusive approach for all sections of the society, addressing concerns that it was adopting a “soft-Hindutva” agenda.
Mr Gandhi met the delegation at his home in Delhi and told them that the Congress had no specific agenda for any particular religion or section. It would have an “agenda for all” centred around providing justice, a source told news agency PTI.
The intellectuals told Mr Gandhi that the Muslim community was feeling threatened as the party was now adopting a “soft-Hindutva” approach to win back Hindus who had moved towards the BJP in the last elections, PTI reported.
Mr Gandhi assured them that the party would not compromise on its core ideology and would not allow injustice to anyone. He said that while the BJP’s thought process was of division, the thought process of the Congress was of inclusiveness as it had to take everyone along, the source said.
The meeting with Muslim intellectuals was part of a series of interactions planned by the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
The Congress chief said the narrative that the BJP was building, including lynchings and beating up of Dalits and Muslims, was to create a divide among people and divert their attention on emotional issues as the ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had nothing to show.
Among people who attended the meeting on Wednesday were former planning commission member Syeda Hameed, JNU professor Zoya Hasan, former president of Aligarh Muslim University Z K Faizan, educationist Ilyas Malik and retired bureaucrat A F Faruqui. Former minister Salman Khursid and Congress minority committee head Nadeem Javed were also present.
The party, however, downplayed the meeting saying the Congress believed in development and inclusion for all. “Our doors are open for everybody,” said party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi.
One of attendees in the meeting told news agency ANI that they had advised Mr Gandhi not to talk about the Muslim community in particular and rather speak on issues like poverty and education.
“Today in the meeting, we advised Rahul Gandhi to not talk about the Muslim community in particular as it will give others an opportunity to polarise him as a leader,” historian S Irfan Habib told ANI.
The Congress chief was also advised to introspect on the party’s past and how “Congress worked in the era of 1970s, when it talked about inclusiveness and “Sajha Virasat” (Shared Legacy),” Mr Habib said.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)