Indian Express
New Delhi, 12 July 1995
11. Chhabildas sticks to his guns
on minority votes
by Deepak Trivedi

GANDHINAGAR - Former Gujarat Chief Minister Chhabildas Mehta has called for drastic measures by the Congress to win back majority support which, he claims, was lost in the search for minority votes. This, he said, should be done after washing away the impression from the majority that the Congress was interested only in the minority.

Hardly a week after some Muslim leaders went to the Congress president, demanding Mr. Mehta’s suspension for his alleged anti-minority stand, the latter queered their pitch in an exclusive interview to Indian Express. He not only stuck to his stand that the appeasement policy cost the party dearly in Gujarat, but also insisted that it must openly woo the majority even at the cost of minority votes.

“Though we have done so much for the minorities, they feel disillusioned. In the process, we also donated majority votes to the BJP. We must now have a clear stand and do away with the appeasement policy. The need of the hour is introspection. We have to search a way out to win the confidence of the majority and erase the impression that the Congress caters only to minority interests,” Mr. Mehta said.

Obviously taken up by the VHP’s performance in garnering support for the BJP during the Assembly elections, Mr. Mehta came up with a controversial suggestion to revive his party in Gujarat: “I strongly believe that the Congress must also have a front organisation such as the VHP. The people of Gujarat are very religious, rather god-fearing. Till the Centre imposed an unnecessary ban on the VHP, the BJP had no major poll plank. They encashed on this. The public meetings of Sadhvi Rithambara and others were an astounding success. The front organisations of the Congress exist on paper only.”

Mr. Mehta also said that the Congress should not worry about the impact of setting up of such an organisation on the minorities. “It will not make a difference to us because the minorities have been openly saying that they will not vote for the Congress,” he argued.

Delving into the reasons for the deviation of the Muslims from the Congress, the former Chief Minister put the blame squarely on the Muslim leadership of the State. “Some fundamentalist Muslims who have come to occupy important posts in the party are the ones who have done nothing except exploiting the Congress. Several of these leaders have direct links with anti-social elements. Also, investigations into the latest narcotics seizure in Borach indicate that the couple found with heroin worth crores of rupees had connections with some bigwig. A Maruti car found has been registered in Delhi. I do not want to go into the details, but if proper investigations are done, much more can come out.”

The fact that Muslim leaders are irked with his views and AICC general-secretary Ahmed Patel expressed tacit displeasure by ensuring Mr. Amarsingh Chaudhary’s election as the CLP leader does not seem to bother Mr. Mehta. Immediately after the rout in the elections, Mr. Mehta had, in a fax message to Mr. Narasimha Rao, held that the appeasement of the minority was what cost them the State. “Isn’t that what has exactly happened in Gujarat? We lost the majority vote and the minority as such has stopped voting for us even after so much of appeasement.”

Regarding the allegations that he was holding the banner of majority communalism and also, on the demand for his suspension, he said: “The Muslim leaders’ displeasure with me is not a new phenomenon. But that does not mean I will change my views.

“Some Muslim leaders are just waiting for a chance. Every time I say something about the appeasement policy, they get their people rush to the PCC headquarters and demand my suspension. I am not scared of these leaders. If they want to suspend me tomorrow, let them do it today. I’am not bothered. There is no ban in the Congress for expressing one’s views. I stand by my views.”

He is not against the Muslims, he clarified. “I am against the appeasement of a particular community. Why special welfare schemes only for the Muslims?”

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