NEW DELHI: In an attempt to counter the BJP’s aggressive Hindutva politics ahead of the 2019 national polls, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi met a group of Muslim intellectuals as part of an outreach to understand the concerns of the community.
Sources in the party said the outreach was organised at the behest of newly appointed minority department chairman Nadeem Javed and was attended by former union minister Salman Khurshid.
Among those who met Rahul at his residence were Irfan Habib, Rakshanda Jalil, Farah Naqvi and NS Farooqui all of whom come from diverse backgrounds like publishing, activism, bureaucracy and academia.
The idea, said the sources, was to assure the thinkers in the community that the grand old party was there to hold hand and raise their issues if needed.
“The outreach will continue,” said a senior AICC functionary, as the party faced criticism why it kept the interaction a hush-hush affair.
After becoming party chief Rahul, who had overtly visited temples during the Gujarat campaign and later in Karnataka, recently hosted an Iftar party two years after the regular event was hosted by former party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Sources said the party strategists are aware that the BJP tries every trick in the book to brand the Congress as pro-Muslim party, but the grand old party was somehow lacking in its response to counter the misinformation campaign, despite championing the cause of the minorities. A case in point was the Triple Talaq or instant divorce issue the ruling BJP came out with leaving the Congress struggling to articulate a uniform and considered view.
Salman’s view that the party had blood of Muslims on its hands, a desperate attempt to placate an agitated student of the AMU some months back also painted the grand old party in a negative shade.
Acknowledging the party’s voter support base among the minorities had shrunk significantly across the country, party managers said they were hopeful that the situation would be reversed in the run up to the 2019 national elections.