In the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) last week, the party’s highest-decision-making body expressed its “dismay and anguish” over the war and underlined its support of the Palestinian people’s right to “land (and) self-government, and to live with dignity and respect”. Before the meeting, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh had, however, said his party has always “believed that the legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine must be fulfilled through dialogue while ensuring the national security concerns of Israelis”.
The statement was heavily criticised by the BJP which claimed that Congress was supporting Hamas.
At the CWC meeting, however, the grand old party decided to stand by its decades-old policy of supporting the Palestine cause, reiterating its support for the rights of the Palestinian people and self-government. The party’s stance on Palestine was one of the first issues to be raised. According to a CWC member, Congress had already issued a statement two days back, that was decided to be sufficient. Ramesh Chennithala had suggested bring the statement into the resolution. Then there were some developments and it was said that “if we included it in the resolution, the importance of party’s OBC push will get diluted”. The CWC member further said, “It was asserted that if such a statement comes out, the whole focus can turn away from the main issue and make Palestine-Israel a central issue. Then that idea was dropped.”
In the meeting, according to a leader present, there was an apprehension that “the opposition (BJP) could use such a discourse against us politically, because of which Malikarjun Kharge came up and intervened saying, now that we have already given out the statement why do we need to dilute it”.
The CWC member said, “Then there was another thing that cropped up, it was discussed that we are not supporting terrorism in such a stand. It was pronounced that whichever side takes to terrorism, kills innocent people, we clearly call it terrorism, no matter which side the fighters belong to. But so long as human rights are concerned, we support the Palestinian cause.” Before the meeting, Congress general secretary in-charge media Communications, Jairam Ramesh had tweeted on social media network X, “The Indian National Congress condemns the brutal attacks on the people of Israel. The Indian National Congress has always believed that the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a life of self-respect, equality and dignity must be fulfilled only through a process of dialogue and negotiations while ensuring the legitimate national security interests of the Israeli people. Violence of any type never provides a solution and must stop.”
A political analyst tracking national politics said, “Even though standing for Palestine has been the age-old policy of Congress and BJP’s then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Congress cannot do a balancing act. The tweet of its General Secretary Jairam Ramesh reflected that he was trying to balance in a way that from one side it tried to keep his statement in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement supporting Israel and on the other, it tried to keep up its long standing stand of Congress supporting Palestine. Such an act would antagonise Muslims which will impact its vote share.”
However, the Indian government’s official stand reiterated its call for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on Thursday with the Ministry of External Affairs saying that there was an “obligation” to uphold humanitarian principles. MEA official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “India always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel.”