Political analyst in conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now
GN Bureau | March 28, 2022
Responding to the popularity of the much-debated film ‘The Kashmir Files’, political analyst and social activist Tehseen Poonawala has asked the opposition, if it has no burning issues to discuss other than giving the film overt publicity and importance.
Poonawala said that though he respects the film’s director, Vivek Agnihotri and been a co-panelist with him on many occasions but he does not necessarily agree with his views. He said if the opposition did not like the movie they should not be talking about it and giving it overt publicity. He questioned the opposition and said that the tallest leaders are talking about the film as if there are no pressing issues for the country.
“Fuel prices are hitting the roof, there is a big problem of unemployment, economy is contracting due to wrong policies of the Honourable Prime Minister. If people did not like ‘The Kashmir Files’ they should not talk about it. On one hand, you are giving it publicity and on the other hand, you are also criticizing it. And then they say the opposition has made an issue out of the movie and fighting over it.”
Poonawala was in a candid conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the webcast as part of the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and analysis platform.
Adding that if Vivek Agnihotri has made a film, you can counter it with another movie, Poonawala said he comes from a very liberal, interfaith and interreligious family and members of his family have showered praises on Vivek for making ‘The Kashmir Files’. “Does that mean my family is communal,” he asked.
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He further said there is no culture of minority or Muslim appeasement in the Congress but the party somehow has got the label of appeasement and that the Congress has never countered this narrative of appeasement.
“There is nothing the Congress did out of the constitution for Muslims or minorities. It created a base for social cohesiveness for development of economically weaker sections. But Congress could never counter this perception around it.”
The social activist and entrepreneur added that it is important for the Congress to get rid of leftists in the party as they have no new ideas for the country and are outdated. Similarly, he said, the Congress should not give important posts to outsiders.
Asked if the Gandhi family should do strategic rethink, he said the Gandhis have been very honest. “Congress leaders also have to take the responsibility upon themselves and not blame the Gandhi’s.”
Poonawala added that the Congress needs competent people on ground who can develop and mobilize a cadre or it may become a party smaller than regional ones. He said the Congress needs to pull up its socks and merely criticizing the government will not work. “What solutions will the Congress provide to people vote for the Congress? How will you convince the fence-sitter? What are you providing them for economy, healthcare, governance, international relations for them to vote for you? It is very important for the Congress to realize that every person that voted for BJP in 2014 or 2019 is not communal. He may have voted for BJP because you may not be fulfilling his requirement,” he said.
He added that unlike Mamta Banerjee who ‘owns’ TMC or Sharad Pawar who ‘owns’ NCP, Akhilesh Yadav who ‘owns’ SP and others, the BJP is a cadre-driven party run by the RSS. “The Gandhis don’t own the Congress, they are custodians of the Congress. They are there because Congress supporters have reposed their trust on them,” he said.
Further coming down on opposition, the political analyst said the debate of Hindu Vs Hindutva is redundant. “The issues of debate are if Modi’s policies are working well for the country, how was demonetization good for the country, if GST is working... if you play on this pitch, it will be the victory of BJP. You are fighting on non-issues and failing to understand what the people want. BJP has created a social base and it is giving them minimum price guarantee … pride. And it has a base of over 40%.”
Asked if the idea of a united opposition is farfetched Poonawala said a national level broad cohesive unit will have to be built for the 2024 elections.
On the Russia-Ukraine War, he said historically India has always taken a neutral stand in foreign affairs.
On the question of his recent controversial statement on a reality show, Poonawala said, he did the right thing by speaking the truth as he had to save his transgender friend, Saisha, from elimination. “I spoke the truth and did the right thing,” he said.
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